So this is like not travel read. Because we have not been travel, but we have been read. We assume it has something to do with timing, things get done and there is space to read. There is also excitement about what is suddenly sitting in front of us. And of course there is obsessiveness, or mania, we get reading on the brain, and we can't let go, it has seemed untended, lost briefly to the ebb and flow of the day, week, month, and it must be reclaimed. And this weekend it was all of this, or maybe none of this, but we did read, both Get Up Tim by Sally Weigel and Have You Seen Me by Katherine Scott Nelson, both from our good friends at the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography, and both of which continue CCLaP's mission to find ways to tell old stories from fresh perspectives and from fresh voices, capturing small town lives and perspectives, told with urgency and spareness. With Get Up Tim we are presented with a collection of stories, including It's Hard to Say, which originally ran in This Zine Will Change Your Life, word, love that, that is as fresh in voice as any we've read recently in part because of who the stories are primarily about, and how they tell the tale, young women stumbling in and out of relationships, beds and family, and populating narratives that conclude in ways that are not so hopeful, even if the characters themselves seem to hold out hope for something different, maybe better, but definitely different, and burnished with realism and actual storytelling, something refreshing in and of itself.
Similar language applies when trying to capture what Nelson has set out to do in taking the small town coming of age story in Have You Seen Me and then twisting and bending it in ways that rarely get traction in any space remotely mainstream or popular. It is the tale of a young gay male also wanting something different and better as tries to find his way. In terms of actual escape he barely gets outside of his own head, but he is none-the-less in continual contact with his best friend who's run away and who in most tales would be the story, not the mirror or foil. It is a book then that is indeed fresh, and yes, we are using that word again, gladly, but it is also more than that as well, urgent, desperate, and ultimately a reading experience that leaves us hopeful for places literature may yet go in an ever-bending new world order, literary and otherwise.