Cover by Jude Catallo, Mark Lee Funk, and Claiborne O'Connor
Trade paper -- 170 pp. $12.00
IN THE FIRST PERSON SINGULAR
Stories of Desire and Power
by Michelle Miller
** WINNER! New Mexico Press Women's Zia Award **
A ghost town hermit desiring renewed human contact begins a journal to record her four years in isolation. A man (her animus?) appears, leaving mysterious and puzzling clues to his presence, and initiating a strange courtship which compels the woman into a profound and bewildering journey of mind, body and spirit.
|Subterranean encounters between the sexes move across contemporary American city and desert landscapes. |
Michelle Miller is a writer and editor, and an award-winning playwright.
|Michelle Miller goes where woman has not gone before. She has the guts and the imagination to ask our most dangerous questions. Read her -- you won't ever feel as alone again.|
|-- Sharon Niederman, THE SANTA FE REPORTER|
|Miller's narrator speaks spontaneously in a range of emotions we can feel, hear and experience -- anger, loneliness, humor, longing. Miller crafts a seemingly fantastic experience into one of startling reality, one that dares us to look at our real hungers as women in a world that so readily accepts masks. In these stories, which all deal with some aspect of our instinctual urges, the reader has the opportunity to experience a similar hunger, a hunger for anything that might happen between people without masks or ritual or fear.|
|-- BELLES LETTRES|
|Michelle Miller is a high risk writer. ... And when her risks do pay off, they pay big... The personal element given to the story by this confessional diary approach makes it interactive in the strongest sense, trapping the reader in a net of interest.|
|-- Eva von Kesselhausen, SMALL PRESS REVIEW|
I have seen people drawn to Michelle Miller's Hunger in the First Person Singular, Stories of Desire and Power as if by a magnet. The cover, with its hand-scrawled lettering and moody intaglio illustration, suggests that something elemental yet elusive is about to be revealed. The title itself announces a "no holds barred" approach; and Miller does not disappoint. Writing with a surgeon's precision, Miller folds back layer after layer of ego and emotion to explore the essential self. Her focus is on women's sexuality and self image, but this intelligent, courageously written work does not shy away from exploring, and honoring, the masculine.
The question of, "who am I when no one else is around?" is at the center of the title novella, Hunger in the First Person Singular. We meet the narrator four years into a self-imposed exile from civilization. She is the sole inhabitant of a decaying southwestern ghost town, several days' hike from a road or another human being. She is free of the societal structures of relationships, of appearances, of money, of time, even of language. But she is not free of hunger. She begins a journal. She invents a companion. Or is he real? Like the tree falling in the empty forest, the solitary individual may or may not be subject to the laws of physical reality. The reality inhabited by Miller's characters in this story seems more flexible than ours, a tantalizing proposition in itself and an intriguing context for Miller's unflinching examination of male/female interaction.
Six short stories continue to address issues of self, sex, and society in the second half of the book, Stories of Desire and Power. "Nighthawks" presents a newly divorced woman now facing a life outside of the safe suburban swaddling of her marriage. Without the protection of a husband and the security of a houseful of possessions, she is newly young, like a college girl in her first apartment. To other women she is the object of both envy and pity. Wouldn't we all like the chance to make ourselves anew? But this may be an impossible task in the face of so many set stereotypes and patterns. In "The Red Kimono" one woman seems to have simply abandoned hope of creating her own identity on her own terms and instead ties herself up so tight that not even a red dressing gown in the closet may be permitted to hint at her sensuality. "Where We've Come" focuses directly on the fears of women -- this underlying sensation of being prey -- and how the fear itself is a paralysis, a prison. "Bonsai" is at once the most brutal and the most tender of the stories, with an interesting plot twist. Here, Miller holds out hope that while each of us are shaped, and sometimes stunted, by pressures over which we have no control, we can still nurture ourselves and each other into maturity.
"Water Rites," "Wedding Portrait," and "On Sleeping With The Wild Horse," return to the southwestern desert, where Miller's characters begin to find the space to inspect and invent themselves. The men are untamed and unapologetic. Like the mysterious male companion of Hunger..., they have cast off, or are cast out of, society. Their very lack of polish and predictability is what attracts, and Miller's "serious, scared women" gravitate to the energy of this freedom and vulnerability. The sexes befriend each other, begin to trust, and to let go of definitions.
If there is any fault to find with Hunger, it is that the writing is so compelling and the stories so short. If you are tempted to read the whole book through in one sitting, as I was, be prepared to read it again. There is a lot to think about here, in not many pages. Take some time with this book; it's nutritious reading for anyone who is hungry for a fresh perspective on men and women, roles and relationships.
|-- Zelda Leah Gatuskin, author|
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