Clare Beams’s debut collection, We Show What We Have Learned, hit the shelves this week, and we’re looking forward to her launch party as part of UNCW’s Writers’ Week, Halloween night in Wilmington, Lookout’s hometown. The stories are rich with haunting imagery, and we thought it might be fun to imagine Clare’s characters out trick-or-treating. Here’s what you’ll need to bring her characters to life in your neighborhood.
A Corset — “Hourglass”
Ingénues at a boarding school who bind themselves to their headmaster’s version of perfection. “From within it, she produced a hollow stiff shell, trailing long tentacular laces…There was a flourish in her wrists as she held it out to me. A new form, right in her hands, ready for the taking.”
A Wedding Dress — “The Drop”
A bride glimpses her husband’s past when she wears his World War II parachute as a gown. “The dress wasn’t bad looking, in Emma’s opinion. It didn’t look much like a parachute unless you had your eyes peeled for the resemblance. The white of it dazzled, as white does. Mrs. Bolland had given it pretty sleeves with points at the wrists, a drop waist that made Lily look streamlined and almost elegant, like something turned on a lathe. Also, a fetching neckline, dipping to a V, just low enough, framing the collarbone.”
Depression-era Bathing Costumes — “The Saltwater Cure”
As Amanda Nelson recaps, in Bookriot, in this story “a teenaged boy becomes infatuated with an older woman at the fraudulent health spa run by his mother.” “She was swimming slowly, straight away from him. No bathing cap today: her wet hair was a dark indiscriminate color, like the head of a seal. Rob blundered into the marsh as fast as he could; he hoped to be covered before she noticed the skinniness of his arms and legs…”
Plague Doctor — “Ailments”
In this story, as the starred Kirkus review reads: a young woman becomes obsessed with her sister’s husband, a doctor, during London’s Great Plague. Dr. Creswell’s wife mends his plague-doctor’s coat and his sister-in-law explores the bird-mask he wears, “a clumsy homemade thing of stained and stiff brown leather. Its eyes were a dull red glass, one webbed in small cracks. Down the beak ran a line of stitches. A mouth sewn closed, but smiling slyly.”
Whatever you decide to dress as, everyone at Lookout wishes you happy haunting and safe trick-or-treating!
(Images courtesy Library of Congress.)
It’s Halloween eve, folks, and we’re ready to get creepy and eat some candy! This week’s roundup highlights what we love so much about Halloween: the combination of scary and sweet, of “misery and magic” (quoth Morgantown Magazine, below). We’ll start off with this bit of photographic sweetness from the Boston Book Festival, where our own Matthew Neill Null sat on a panel with superstars Megan Mayhew Bergman and Matt Bell.
Things heat up with some love for Honey from the Lion, first from this Atlanta Journal-Constitution review. “Null commands the language of a bygone place and time in prose as eloquent and precise as poetry,” it says, and also: “Mistaken identities, espionage, double-crosses, police corruption, gilded-era fat cats scheming from afar, hatchet men penetrating the union ranks like ninjas—it’s all here in a tightly plotted story that often reads like a thriller.” Poetry and pacing! That’s quite a combo, no?
Matt and the book also got some hometown love in the October issue of Morgantown Magazine: “Matt’s characters are the men and women who live close to the bone—the sawyers, peddlers, and laborers whose muscle and spirit both built the state and irrevocably transformed it. And his language, though image-rich and arresting on its own, doesn’t shy away from describing the misery and magic of the setting in equal measure.” We just love that description.
A delightful piece of news: contributor Aimee Nezhukumatathil has been named poetry editor of Orion. Congrats, Aimee! But don’t get too comfy: The Toronto Observer asks, “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” in this awesome review of contributor Benjamin Percy’s novel The Dead Lands, a new post-apocalyptic thriller inspired by the Lewis and Clark saga.
We were so happy to see the first three suggestions on the Master’s Review‘s fall reading list are novels from Ecotone contributors—Matthew Neill Null alongside Lauren Groff and Claire Vaye Watkins! Scary! Awesome!
As we’re putting together our Sound issue of Ecotone, it was pretty fun to find this piece in Guernica about Lou Reed, from contributor Peter Trachtenberg, which gets the combination of melody and madness just right. “The best songs were like doors opening into a party, one that was glamorous but also terrible, heartless.”
We hope your Halloween festivities are filled with all the wholesomeness and wickedness, debauchery and deliciousness you can stomach.
Halloween is just days away. Maybe you’ve been planning a costume for months, maybe you’re putting on the finishing touches, but if you’re a costume procrastinator (ahem, like me), I bet that right about now you’re scrambling to pull something together. And if you’re a literature lover, then a book-themed, favorite-character-driven guise is probably your go-to.
But let’s be real—you want something other than your typical literary costume: Alice and the Mad Hatter, Dorothy and the Scarecrow (or the Lion, Tin Man, or Toto), Harry Potter, Red Riding Hood, Frankenstein. So over the past couple of days, I’ve browsed my Ecotone collection, and here are the results—five costume ideas that jumped out at me from the pages of my favorite issues. I hope to see some of these on Halloween—and if we’ve caught you a little too frighteningly close for this year’s All Hallows’ Eve, then go ahead and bookmark one for next year!
Have another freakishly delightful costume idea from the Ecotone archives? Send it our way!
–Ryan Kaune, Ecotone Fiction Editor
Happy Halloween! For this week’s Roundup, we’ve compiled all the spookiest literary news in honor of this sugar-filled holiday, as well as an introduction to Lookout’s next author, Matthew Neill Null!
Still undecided on your costume for tonight? Be inspired by this infographic courtesy of Electric Literature. (Although, come to think of it, Sontag’s teddy bear suit might prove a little difficult to pull off at the last minute.)
Handing out candy to the tykes? The Washington Post’s Joe Heim revisits an interview with Lookout author Steve Almond about this book Candyfreak—“a must-have hymnal for anyone who worships confection in all its forms”—and finds out what your go-to candy really says about your personality. The results are more frightening than you think!
The folks over at Uproxx suggest ditching the candy entirely and handing out comic books instead. May we suggest books for every holiday?Continue Reading
Books like to dress up for Halloween too. Check out these five classics that came to the costume party disguised as different genres.
1. To Kill a Mockingbird. In this Polish edition of Harper Lee’s classic, Boo Radley holds Scout and Jem hostage in the Radley House of Horrors. He gives them twenty-four hours to escape, using only chewing gum, twine, Indian-head pennies, and miniature soap sculptures.
1. Buy all the bow ties and black-rimmed eyeglasses in your city to ensure you’re the only person at your party wearing this season’s hottest literary Halloween costume: Lookout author Ben Miller.
2. Prepare condescending remarks to sling at guests who come dressed as monsters, aliens, cowboys, etc. This is a literary party, not a genre party, thank you very much.
3. Gather up every book by Poe, Shirley Jackson, Stephen King, H.P. Lovecraft, etc. that you have in your home. In the largest, most open area of the house—probably the space where the dance floor would be if this were a less awesome party—arrange the books into a pentangle and place a single red candle at each of its points. What happens from there is up to you. Use your imagination!Continue Reading