Tuesday, September 22, 2015

"The Suicide of Claire Bishop"

Carmiel Banasky is a writer and teacher from Portland, OR. Her work has appeared in Glimmer Train, American Short Fiction, Slice, Guernica, PEN America, The Rumpus, and NPR, among other places. She earned her MFA from Hunter College, where she taught Undergraduate Creative Writing. She is the recipient of awards and fellowships from Bread Loaf, Ucross, Ragdale, Artist Trust, I-Park, and others foundations.

Banasky applied the Page 69 Test to The Suicide of Claire Bishop, her debut novel, and reported the following:
From page 69:
My cell vibrates—finally Nicolette. She apologizes, says she’s very busy. But the way she says it nearly gives me a heart attack. “_____, _____ busy.” The two blanks? Words that are seemingly normal. But they aren’t normal at all. They are lost words. How could she know them again?

I hate those words.

Dear Courteous Voices: Won’t you be less courteous and interrupt once in a while? I could use a little help. I’d like to know if you’re out (or in) there. I can only assume you are with me and listening, though I can’t hear you. Which I attribute to Zyprexa interference. Like duct tape over your mouths. Riding along in my brain like a person trapped in the trunk of the car.

I cannot repeat the words to you, but I will write them down as anagrams, to be safe, in two places: in my little notepad with the spiral on top and lines too faint to use, and on my left palm:
razor scryy
My skin is very moist and no one but I will ever be clever enough to read the blurry letters.

Another text: not safest idea 4 u or me. better this way.

Not safe how? Before I can reply she texts again: some other time.

And I text back: when?

Here is another truth: someone or something is always trying to block Nicolette and me from coming together. But this time, I won’t let them.

You see that girl shaded in the front seat of that parked car? I think she’s crying, her head bobbing that way. The shadows of a sidewalk tree dance on her little face in a hot breeze. No, a reflection that looks like a shadow. I’m afraid she’ll be swallowed by it. If Nicolette were to place landmines around New York, they would take the shape of shadows like that. Sinister, bloodless. Everything would be the inverse of itself. But not everything is a Nicolette installation—an easy thing to forget. All the overweight men stand in front of their shop fronts, hands on their bellies. They look worried and Tachi’s car is still missing down Bowery…
Page 69 is when West, a data miner with schizophrenia, lands upon one of his first delusions. Nicolette, his ex-girlfriend, has just failed to show up at one of her art installations (a house with a landmine field for a lawn) where they were supposed to meet. One of West’s long-held delusions involves two words, which he believes have been extracted from of the English language. Now he finds, in this text message, that his ex-girlfriend somehow has access to those words again. It throws him off, but instead of calling his delusion in question, it reinforces it. Clues (fabricated, but very real to him) start falling into place around him, shining out from every corner of the city. He starts to see his neighborhood (Chinatown in Manhattan), the street, the fortune cookie factory next door, the shop owners and strangers on the street—as connected and tied to his experiences, emotions, and search for Nicolette.

When I have West address the observers he feels are sitting in his mind, always watching him, waiting for him to mess up, he is addressing the reader as well. “Dear Courteous Voices” is a mantra he returns to. Because the voices are quiet now, and he believes (mistakenly) that they can help him figure out the mystery he gradually creates about Nicolette, he starts to get off his meds. From there, things take a strange turn.
Visit Carmiel Banasky's website.

--Marshal Zeringue