Saturday, November 1, 2008


The past few decades have not been good for people who specialize in the short form of anything, but maybe, just maybe the pendulum is swinging in the other direction again.

Hollywood is specializing in three hour long B Movies, novels are volumes long, and I think all of it is collapsing under the unbearable weight of expense and bloat. I love short stories, and if my opinion is worth anything, I really believe that the best young American writers seem to be short story specialists. Kelly Link is untouchable with her razor sharp voice and her boundless imagination, and Karen Russell is not far behind, having written my favorite story of recent years: St. Lucy's Home For Girls Raised By Wolves. Link's fantastic zine, Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet is never ever dull, and is, story for story, way stronger than The New Yorker. The yearly anthology edited by Ellen Datlow (who I met this year at a reading and almost died of shyness and excitement) and Link is always really, really worth reading. All we need now is for Alice Munro to win her long deserved Nobel.

Okay. I need to fess up. Alice Monroe aside, most of the above write what is called fantasy, or speculative fiction, or horror. If left completely to my own devices, this is where my taste runs. Happily, my taste seems to have gone mainstream, so there is lots and lots of it. Also, most of the authors listed above are women. I don't know if means anything, as the world of speculative fiction short story writing has always been more egalitarian than some (probably because there was always so little money at stake). All this brings me back to The List I started blogging about last summer. To recap: there have been remarkably few female film directors who have had careers of any significance.

Last night I attended a screening of an anthology of short horror films directed by women, Bride of Sinister Six, curated by Bryan Enk. I love anthologies. I play my ipod on shuffle. I crave variety. Halloween is the best. The more splatter the better. I had a really great time. To make a full disclosure, I know many of the people involved. I'm not here to be a critic. I'm just really glad Bryan remedied a really unfortunate situation (the two previous Sinister Six anthologies included only male directors).

I loved Sally McKleinfeld's film (The Box) which dealt with sisters and a horrific, flipper-like tongue. I also really liked Gyda Arber's creepy roommate story (Watching), with a lovely performance by Jessi Gotta (who played Winnie in the second incarnation of Antarctica). I enjoyed all six films, but I really wanted to talk about "The Poison Kiss", Hope Cartelli's offering (still, above). It is sublime, it is beautiful, it is complete. A black & white, silent, German expressionist pastiche, with a terrific lead performance by Iracel Rivero (who looks like she was cast via time machine). Hope has been collaborating with her husband, Jeff Lewonczyk, on the silent, staged, Bizarre Science Fantasy series for the past few years, and the experience shows. The story telling is clear, fluid and concise. This is Hope's first film but you would never guess that from seeing this short. More please?