“Conspiracy of Males” by Evan James Roskos

“Conspiracy of Males” by Evan James Roskos is from Granta Online’s excellent New Voices series. To me this reads like a well-executed experimental sketch than a fully considered story, due mostly to Roskos’ use of the first person plural. The most recent, and most notable, use of the first person plural is Joshua Ferris’ And Then We Came To The End. But unlike Ferris, who used it to evoke a commiserative mood, Roskos uses it to underscore a sense of menace and paranoia:

“We hated your fat little face. We called you elephant. We called you Jupiter. We called you fat-ass. You asshole. Cocksucker. Dickhead. Shithead. Faggot. We beat you up in fifth grade, eight knees to your temple. You got detention because you were fatter than us. The principal, also the civics teacher, said we were too smart to start a fight with a big kid. How fair, how fair.”

A little unsettling, isn’t it? Definitely worth reading.

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Sign of the Gun by P.D. Mallamo

I’ve become a big fan of the new Granta Online-Only website. One of my favorite features is “New Voices” that “showcases original fiction by emerging writers.” P.D. Mallamo’s short story “Sign of the Gun” absolutely floored me. I can’t believe this is his first published story. It might be one of the best things I’ve read this year.

“Sign of the Gun” follows a lone clandestine pot farmer as he sets up an operation on the edge of a Navajo reservation in the Arizona desert. When he stumbles upon and rescues a Morman woman from a brutal attack, a simple relationship develops. It is at once meditative, confessional, spare, visceral, and, more than anything else–immediate. Here’s a taste:

“By the time they labour up the other side she’s vomited twice and the sky is falling upward from cobalt to indigo to luminous obsidian. When they reach the Maule he can see the ghost of the Milky Way.”

The startling immediacy of “Sign of the Gun” comes from Mallamo’s use of the third-person present. From the accompanying interview with P.D. Mallamo:

“Writing and reading in third-person present is like a high-speed drive through Nevada at two a.m.: incredibly invigorating and somewhat dangerous, with a lethal surprise just over the next rise. You’ve got to keep your high beams on and look way ahead, but you can also open all the windows and turn the radio up.”

That’s exactly the experience I had reading this story. I imagine we’ll hear much more from P.D. Mallamo in the coming years.

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