Short Story Month, Day 20: Lisa Quigley
If you're looking for fresh, new literary voices, it doesn't get much fresher than Lisa Quigley's first published fiction story, which came out earlier this month in the stylish new journal Automata Review. The start of this story is innocuous—or at least as innocuous as a story about demon possession gets—but definitely well stylized: great descriptions, an excellent hook, and perfect sentence structure. It feels familiar, comfortable, like something you've read before, so you know that something is about to happen. The story can't go on being about a seemingly straightforward possession (if such a thing exists) because, I mean, look at that title, right? And yet, when something does happen in this story, it's unexpected, at least for me. And it's unexpected because it's lovely. Yes, that's right: This horror story turns out lovely. And I'm still a little flabbergasted by it because of its implications beyond the context of the story—what a person can get out of this as a metaphor for life. Because, I mean, what this girl gives the demon… isn't it what we all need? Whether we're talking about something we give ourselves or something we give to others, this reaction is what we all need more of in life? Isn't her awareness what we so often find ourselves needing from others but lacking in ourselves?
I hope I'm being vague enough about the ending and not spoiling it. But suffice it to say that the turn in this story is everything. It's like the supernatural version of Raymond Carver's "Cathedral" for me because that, too, is a tale that feels mostly unassuming but pays off with a turn that devastates quietly. A friend of mine told me the other day that she's been reluctant to read some of my short story choices because Kristi Rabe's essay left her wrecked, so think of this one as its more hopeful companion.