Introduction

I told Jonathan Gibbs that I was the sort of person who walked around constructing anthologies in my head all the time any way, so, yes, I would like to put together a personal anthology for this project.

Like others who have contributed, I’m going to quote Jonathan quoting Borges: “My preferences have dictated this book. I should like to be judged by it.” I look for patterns in my choices. Some of the patterns don’t surprise me: stories set in places I have visited and written about, South Africa and Nicaragua. Some of the patterns do surprise me: the number of stories with teenage boys in them, the number of stories about fathers.
Mostly though, I figured I would wind up with an anthology focused on loss. As Kit Caless and Aki Schilz observed when they created LossLit, the digital writing project, much of literature is about loss.

I grew up in a neighbourhood in New York where the background noise was made up of the voices of those who had had to leave something behind. And thus, the adults always longed for what they’d lost when they were displaced in some way: the brilliant red sunsets and warm sea air of the Dominican Republic before Joaquin Balaguer made it impossible to stay, the neighbourliness and ease that existed alongside the poverty and brutal racism of the American Deep South, the German language childhoods and evaporated landscape remembered by the refugees from Germany.

The stories that I think of again and again, that I am haunted by, hounded by even– are almost always about those who can never return to a particular place or to a person who is gone somehow (often because they themselves did something that led to that person’s injury). I am comforted by these stories of loss, by they acknowledge that almost all of us are trying to find our way through a landscape we weren’t expect to find ourselves in.

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