The bus ride to work is when I get stuck into an essay from Bringing the Devil to His Knees, edited by Peter Turchi and Charles Baxter. Off the bus, I continue reading as I walk the two blocks to work, slowly coming back to the day, looking away from the page to cross the road and step off the curb. The essays are imaginative and inspired; each one asking me to reconsider an element of a story I’m in the midst of writing or revising. Perhaps the essay that has haunted me most is “Where’s Iago,” by Susan Neville. In it, she recounts a phone call from Kurt Vonnegut, who told her the novel she was writing was “missing Iago.” Neville talks about Iago and the image of evil, and how various types of evil function as tools and structures in storytelling.
At work when the bookstore is quiet, I read new picture books coming in on the cart—a favourite this month has been Milo Imagines the World by Matt de la Peña and Christian Robinson. The artwork is stunning. And how can you not fall in love with the language when there are lines like: “the dog peeking out of her handbag has no face at all, / just a long, lolling tongue.”
Then there’s Killing and Dying by cartoonist Adrian Tomine. The style, with its clean lines and pastel palette, conveys big emotions in small moments. Tomine’s panels remind me of how we seem to be experiencing the passage time now in the midst of a pandemic, where it is at once terribly swift and excruciatingly slow. Already, another day turns over. Looking ahead, Dantiel W. Moniz’s Milk Blood Heat is on the top of the stack.
Alison Braid is the author of the chapbook Little Hunches (Anstruther Press, Spring 2020.) Her work is published or forthcoming in Arc Poetry Magazine, Bad Nudes, The Puritan, Prairie Fire, CV2, and elsewhere. She is currently pursuing an MFA at the Vermont College of Fine Arts.