Saturday, September 2, 2017

"Reincarnation Blues"

Michael Poore’s short fiction has appeared in Glimmer Train, Southern Review, Agni, Fiction, and Asimov’s. His story “The Street of the House of the Sun” was selected for The Year’s Best Nonrequired Reading 2012. His first novel, Up Jumps the Devil, was hailed by The New York Review of Books as “an elegiac masterpiece.” Poore lives in Highland, Indiana, with his wife, poet and activist Janine Harrison, and their daughter, Jianna.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Reincarnation Blues, and reported the following:
The Page 69 Test worked beautifully for Reincarnation Blues, I thought. It spans the end of one mini-story and the beginning of another; between the two, you get a representative taste of the whole book.

This is the story of a soul who has lived almost 10,000 lives, and it contains a lot of lightning-strike vignettes which sketch many of those lives for the reader. Page 69 begins with a story in which Milo, a daring young musketeer, has an affair with a commander’s wife. When the affair is discovered, the enraged husband arranges for poor Milo to be captured by the enemy, and catapulted alive back over the walls of besieged Vienna. Milo dies, of course (again), but enjoys the experience capitally. If you had died a few thousand times, you’d be a good sport, too.

The second half of the page is a scene between Milo and his good friend, Death (aka Suzie). We know they eventually become lovers, but this hasn’t happened yet. It goes like this:
Sometimes, between his first hundred lives or so, Milo tried to spend his time with Suzie, though they weren’t yet lovers in those days. They both enjoyed swimming, and food. They enjoyed asking each other questions like ‘Would you rather lose an arm or an eyeball?’ And sometimes Milo thought he caught her looking at him a certain way.

He wondered what would happen if Death went to bed with a plain old mortal man.

“I don’t know,” she said. “It might destroy our friendship. It might even burn you up. Like, literally consume you with fire. I seriously don’t know.”

Milo was flustered. “Can you read my mind?” he asked.

“I thought you knew.”

“Well don’t. Jesus!”

After his hundredth life, he helped her open an exotic food store called The Chocolate Squid. The store was fully stocked with squid and chocolate-covered butterflies and flowers you were supposed to dip in cheese, and more. When the gods tried to do human-style things, Milo observed, they often missed the mark.
Here, we see Milo and Suzie addressing the key problem in their relationship: in the end, he’s just a human, and she’s something more like a god. Yeah, she can do things he can’t, like read his mind, but the real conflict is larger. They are not equals. So there’s the problem with humankind attempting, as it often does, to tread the pathways of the divine. As we know from centuries of literature and poetry, this rarely works out. Milo stands a good chance of actually getting destroyed if he ever dares to love her.

Conversely, we see that she risks failure in trying to do ordinary things. She wants to open a cute little shop. Wants to do that so badly, but it’s like a dragon pretending to be a chipmunk. Like trying to do needlepoint while wearing welding gloves. It’s not a fit. But these two obviously love each other, and that breeds hope. It’s the kind of hope that gets you torched from the inside out, but Hey. It’s just your soul.
Visit Michael Poore's website.

My Book, The Movie: Reincarnation Blues.

--Marshal Zeringue