Irene Doukas Behrman featured three short prose pieces on Peach Mag last Friday. Behrman’s prose is quick and to the point. Using only a paragraph, and sometimes even less, she is able to paint scenes of quiet discomfort, simmering jealousy, and low-key humiliation. Acne cover-up is dispensed, group dynamics are thoughtlessly laid bare, and in the end, the true winners of the daily social deathmatch effortlessly glide past the broken-hearted: “The contest winner has never won a contest before. She didn’t expect to win — actually, she’d forgotten that she’d even entered her work. She discovers that she’s won first place right after her boyfriend proposes to her.” And yes, in their own very quiet, sadistic way, these micro-stories from Behrman are in fact very funny.
Also working masterfully in the vein of tragicomedy, Bree Jo’ann published two poems on Peach yesterday. In “Bildungsroman is One of My Favorite Words,” Jo’Ann conveys what it’s like to be a young woman listlessly trapped in a sense of extended scholastic ennui typically only typified through the fictional literary voices of spoiled white boys, “I attempted vague campaigns of Self destruction. / I watched sad movies, / read Jean Paul Sartre on weekend nights, / attempted to eat only Lucky Charms and salad / but I just ended up hungry sitting in my big ten dorm room.” Jo’Ann paints empty and awkward time spent in bedrooms and classrooms in the middle of nowhere with her poetry, and they’re all built upon a bedrock of little true-to-life details that lend each of them unlimited authenticity, “I didn’t kick it as an adolescent in Gary, IN. / I sat in my basement until the wee hours, alternating between cable television and Dance / Dance Revolution.”
Things To Make and Break
Calling May-Lan Tan’s collection of short stories “dark” would be an apt description. However, that would dismiss the innate tenderness in these 11 works of fiction. In each of Tan’s stories, ordinary events walk a thin line between hope and despair. A dying woman looks for a suitable new love for her soon-to-be widower husband. Twin acts of sudden violence befall a pair of children both named Lauren. An exotic dancer agrees to take place in an otherworldly ritual. A young girl in Hong Kong anxiously awaits the return of her single mother from a date. The way mundane moments are infused with an eerie energy in Tan’s prose gives every moment the possibility of tragedy. Through all of this, Tan is able to weave the desperate human need for love, and that makes every moment of horror feel inevitable and earned. Human beings are able to put themselves through some truly awful things for a few fleeting moments of connection. “Later, I realized no one else understands what the story’s about. Everyone seems to think it’s about religion, but what it really means is she knows how to be alone.”
“Peach Picks” is a column of literary news and recommendations written by the editors of Peach Mag, an online literary magazine based in Buffalo, New York. For inquiries, contact the editors at firstname.lastname@example.org.