"I always feel as if I’m struggling to become someone else. As if I’m trying to find a new place, grab hold of a new life, a new personality. I suppose it’s part of growing up, yet it’s also an attempt to re-invent myself. By becoming a different me, I could free myself of everything. I seriously believed I could escape myself - as long as I made the effort. But I always hit a dead end. No matter where I go, I still end up me. What’s missing never changes. The scenery may change, but I’m still the same old incomplete person. The same missing elements torture me with a hunger that I can never satisfy. I think that lack itself is as close as I’ll come to defining myself."
Haruki Murakami, South of the Border, West of the Sun (via napred)
I am very bad at blogging, obviously. I’m never on this thing. #sorrynotsorry
"I have scars on my hands from touching certain people."
J. D. Salinger
Everything you love is here
"Our Meat" by Joe Kowalski, recommended by Electric Literature
Issue No. 105
If the apocalypse is the final destruction, then what can come after it? Nothing should follow the end, and yet so much fiction and film would tell you otherwise. Whether it’s Noah and his ark or McCarthy’s unnamed father and son, the plight of lonely survivors has become a genre unto itself. Understandably so, because when survival is at stake, when our own interests are so nakedly pitted against the interests of others, our humanity (or lack of) is exposed—and can be explored. Joe Kowalski’s “Our Meat” is set in this oxymoronic post-apocalyptic landscape, where “everyone is a little crazy since The Thing That Happened.” The Thing That Happened: that’s all you’re going to get by way of back-story. An event so incompressible it cannot be described in further terms; it is a hinge in time marked only by the words before and since.
So, what do we know about The Thing That Happened? We know that the protagonist has grown increasingly, inexplicably muscular; we know that his girlfriend’s knees have become weak. We know that there are bombed-out brownstones, selective ghosts, and carnivorous butchers. We know that “the color departed when people stopped noticing it.” But, if you want to know if it was war or rising seas, zombies or global pandemic that brought about these changes, “Our Meat” is not the story for you. One could call it sci-fi or speculative fiction, but the degree to which Kowalski speculates is nothing compared to the role of emotion, of desperation, of hope without hope, of the most basic elements of human companionship.
In addition to high-stakes survival, perhaps what makes the after-apocalypse so alluring, so productive for narrative, is that it offers the chance to see beyond the end—beyond death—into a kind of after life. Like Dante and Orpheus, each post-apocalyptic hero is an envoy to the other side, issuing his own report on what follows the end.
Halimah Marcus, Editor-in-Chief
Electric Literature’s Recommended Reading
Support Recommended Reading
by Joe Kowalski
Recommended by Electric Literature
On nights when it’s cool, I carry Mem up to the roof, and she makes a wish on every 11th gunshot we hear. Bursts from automatic weapons are harder to count and are usually an indication that it’s time to go back inside. I’m not superstitious, so I don’t wish for anything.
Right after The Thing That Happened, everyone was so shaken up that it was not uncommon for a man to walk around with a plastic bag stuck to his foot for days before realizing it was there. Some people went around saying only, Everything has changed now. Everyone went a little crazy, each in their own way.
Everything has changed, yes, but things aren’t as bad as some people make them out to be, at least, not in our community. We get all our food and supplies from The WPA, and in exchange I help them out when they need heavy lifting. I mean that literally, I’m the most able-bodied person here. I have a muscular figure, but my best feature is my arms, which are so improbably thick that they seem as if they were intended for a much larger body than my own. But I wasn’t always like this.
Tonight, in the kitchen, Mem tells me to keep my eyes closed so I don’t spoil the surprise. I close my eyes and I hear her walk to the oven and I smell cupcakes. As she walks back there’s a clatter as something falls. I rush over to her. Her knees have given out again. She’s wincing in pain, and I carry her over and lay her on the bed. There are cupcakes all over the floor.
I can still eat them, I say.
No, you know that’s dangerous, she says.
There are words written in icing on the top of each cupcake, but many of them are now smeared and unreadable.
Happy birthday, she says weakly.
"Everyone is a little crazy since The Thing That Happened."
From “Our Meat” by Joe Kowalski. Recommended by Electric Literature.
Read it for free tomorrow at Recommended Reading.
"Oh, love isn’t there to make us happy. I believe it exists to show us how much we can endure."
Hermann Hesse, Wer lieben kann, ist glücklich. Über die Liebe (via athenasherinekhalil)
"what i never
from my mother
just because someone desires you
not mean they value you.
desire is the kind of thing that
leaves you starving."
The Color of Low Self Esteem (Nayyirah Waheed)
"Gazing at the rain, I consider what it means to belong, to become part of something. To have someone cry for me."
Haruki Murakami (via blackestdespondency)
The air smells like summer
and I am beginning again.
Your name only jumps off my lips
I never said you were a lazy Sunday
You never would have let me.