stories, by Holly Tavel
ISBN 978-0-9571213-9-3. Paperback. 152pp. Publication date: November 2015. Equus Press: London. Price: € 15.00 (not including postage).
If the past is a foreign country, childhood is a vanished civilization filled with mysterious monuments and charming ruins, and always colored by our own wildly unreliable memories.
The 18 stories in this collection offer a kaleidoscopic view of childhood’s forgotten tropes and dizzying leaps of logic, and are by turns hilariously paranoid, discombobulated, claustrophobic, and filled with yearning. A parrot regales his new owner with an increasingly outrageous story of his own picaresque past; a woman taking care of her aging mad-scientist father is alarmed by his new teenage sidekick; a dying superhero recalls himself and his archnemesis as lonely grade-school outcasts; coma victims become the unwitting vessels of a shadowy weather-control project; suburbanites, menaced by their material possessions, regress to a prelapsarian state; a trio of bumbling fools in a near-future dystopia try to decide what to do about a giant robot that suddenly appears without explanation.
“Tavel’s fiction has the delicious feel of children’s literature, without being child-like, or for children. Her worlds are magically palpable, rendered in precise detail and a moody palette just beyond reach of reality. They elicit an enormous craving to cross into them and abide there. […] Tavel’s voice is both comic and elegiac, with a deep sadness underlining the absurdity.” Angela Woodward, Big Other
“Tavel’s stories seem to ask: Why is memory always inevitably in the service of preserving mental homeostasis through suppression, displacement, concealment? Why do we find past memories always already, as it were, pre-processed and re-programmed by present desire? Of course, Tavel’s stories do not & cannot give definite answers to any of these – for good storytelling has far more to do with raising questions than giving answers. But they each ask these questions and think through and around them with sophistication, wit & skill.” David Vichnar, Equus Press
“Reading Holly Tavel’s The Weather in Fritz Bemelmans Park is like going to a grand exotic circus where one can see wonders and spectacles in every direction. These stories are fantastical, whimsical, and a provocative delight.” Robert Lopez, author of Good People
“In Tavel’s fictional world one finds fugues, rubrics, cartoons, ethnographies of imagined persons, logic tests, prose poems, and surreal fables. Tavel’s stories mix media, registers, and diction as the author leaps and pirouettes across great associations, yet Tavel is never in danger of falling, nor is the conjured world doomed to vanish—the sentences are too finely made. Please open this cabinet of wonders.” Anthony Tognazzini, author of I Carry A Hammer in My Pocket for Occasions Such As These
“Precise, perverse, sly, and entrancing, these stories open up layer by layer like Matryoshka dolls. Tavel’s narrators take giddy, surprising leaps – into the animal and the inquisitive, into the superheroic and epic and subjunctive realms. The Weather in Fritz Bemelmans Park is a wonder.” Nelly Reifler, author of See Through: Stories
THE WEATHER MACHINE
Past the reservoir and the aqueducts, past the condominium towers with their fragile balcony gardens and decorative gargoyles, lie the various institutes, facilities, government-sponsored brain trusts and corporate think tanks of the Quadrangle Research and Technology Park. The low, quiet, egg-colored buildings of the Quadrangle Research Park exude undisputed authority, disporting upon their square shoulders imposing acronyms rendered in smooth microplastic, facing, always, the rising sun. The exterior signage of the Quadrangle Research and Technology Park, sculpturally emerging from treeless lots, discloses no secrets, makes no claims, but nevertheless, in virgin white and polished red, expresses certain bold assertions, seeming almost to invite applause. Though what exactly is being boldly asserted, we, the volunteers, have never been able to figure out.
Several of us volunteers, while running errands in our cars during lunch breaks from our other jobs, on the days that we do not volunteer at the Schmetterling-Kitely Neurology Wing, have seen a group of Schmetterling-Kitely Neurologists, in their white doctor coats and loud ties, five or six of them all crammed together in a small sports car, pulling up to the gated entrance to one of the low quiet buildings of the Quadrangle Research and Technology Park. We have, each of us, on more than one occasion driving past the Quadrangle Research and Technology Park, seen glimpses of what we volunteers believe to be a weather machine. A machine for controlling the weather, yes, but also for creating it. It is not, we do not think, kept in one place, or in one building. As near as we can figure the machine, which we have only seen traces of, exists in some way due to the red notebooks we give to the doctors. We are not certain how this could be possible, but what do we know about Neurometeorology? Several of us volunteers have discussed these sightings amongst ourselves. We have compared notes. During lunch breaks from our other jobs we meet at a mutually convenient location and pile into a small sports car and drive to the Quadrangle Research and Technology Park, park across the street, and wait. We see the doctors and what appear to be several researchers warmly shaking hands next to a large spherical sculpture. We see the doctors loading something into the trunk of their car. We see the researchers lighting cigarettes and standing together in a little knot, smoking and talking and gazing over the roofs of facing buildings, in the general direction of the future.
A perfectly round white cloud casting a perfectly round dark shadow hung over the Quadrangle Research and Technology Park. The next day the shadow had moved six feet to the east. The day after that it had moved twelve more feet, and the day following that one it had moved twenty-four more, for a total of forty-two. For a week the cloud moved, as near as we, the volunteers, could figure by means of our primitive compasses and limited mathematical abilities, due east at a rate of 3(2(t-1)) feet/day2. By our calculations the cloud will be centered directly over Fritz Bemelmans Park in six days, three hours and forty-seven minutes.
The eyelids of the people in comas register subtle shifts in the barometric pressure. If it is to rain their faces sag like paper. Sometimes someone makes something that looks like a smile. We reach for our notebooks. There is a low-pressure front moving in from the north.