ISSUE 19: DISTRACTION


09.10.2016

Dear Reader:

In the past eighteen issues of Slice, we’ve often presented you with themes about epic ideas like Heroes or Villains, Hope or Fear, Desire or Obsession. Why then, you might ask, are we offering you an issue themed around Distraction, that most trifling of topics? No one writes great sagas about distraction. They get distracted while writing great sagas. I’ll spare you the obvious patter about the ceaseless distractions of modern life, though frankly I paused in writing you this letter precisely twenty-six times to do things like unpack the dishwater, eat a snack, check the Airbnb app, and see whose birthday I should celebrate on Facebook.1 Colson Whitehead, who gave an interview to Sean Jones in this issue of Slice, wrote an article a few years ago for Publisher’s Weekly about distraction and the writing life. He said, “I can’t blame modern technology for my predilection for distraction, not after all the hours I’ve spent watching lost balloons disappear into the clouds. I did it before the Internet, and I’ll do it after the apocalypse, assuming we still have helium and weak-gripped children.”

So accepting that it is a part of the human condition, allow us to make this issue a paean to distraction.2 In Brian Gresko’s Authors in Conversation interview with Alexander Chee and Tracy O’Neill, Chee suggests that when you are distracted it might be because you’re not “writing about what you want to be writing about.” Distraction, then, could be a warning bell calling us to the things that matter. Our distraction might also be a map of our inner lives. Sometimes, as we Slice editors comb through the thousands of pages in our submissions pile, a theme keeps emerging, which always feels like a message from the collective voice of the writing world. This time, we encountered lots of submissions with footnotes, those distracting little fellows, like Cindy Withjack’s flash fiction story “Wednesday or Thursday,” where the footnotes revealing the protagonist’s interior life are longer than the piece: the distractions of a mind at work are greater in volume than the actions of a day. Many of the tales in this issue are about the distractions of the past; characters try to focus on stacking produce at the grocery store or shoveling elephant shit in order to bury the memories that keep surfacing. People are distracted by their histories, by love, by the events of the world, by fear. Our distractions— the epic ones that plague us and the small minutiae that entertain and irritate us—are the stuff of life.

Like Whitehead, I’m also distracted by balloons. How lucky I am that I have time to watch them sail away into the sky.3

Cheers,

Elizabeth Blachman

Editor-in-chief

1 Oh, and I also made tea.

2 In the Stephen Mitchell translation of “Duino Elegies,” Rainer Maria Rilke wrote: “Weren’t you always/distracted by expectation, as if every event/announced a beloved?”

3 Should I be worried about the turtles?


Interviews


LAUREN GROFF by Michele Filgate

ALEXANDER CHEE & TRACY O’NEILL by Brian Gresko

COLSON WHITEHEAD by Sean Jones

BEHIND THE BOOK DEAL: SARI WILSON, TERRY KARTEN & PJ MARK by Elizabeth Blachman


Fiction


Fiction Editors, Elizabeth Blachman, Celia Blue Johnson

AUTHOR’S PICK: MINNOW NIGHT AT EDGERY’S by Nell David, with an Introduction by Ted Thompson

SPECULOOS by Amy Feltman

ARE WE EVER EVEN OUR OWN by Gabrielle Lucille Fuentes

A LETTER ADDRESSED TO YOU by Juhea Kim

SUPER-KAMIOKANDE by Perry Lopez

UFO by Alison McCabe

WEDNESDAY OR THURSDAY by Cindy Withjack

DESERT PLACES by Sung J. Woo (paintings by Dina Brodsky)


Nonfiction


Nonfiction Editors, Maria Gagliano, Christopher Locke

HIS ANGER IS NOT NEW by S. Isabel Choi

HOW TO BURY AN ELEPHANT by Kristin Ginger

THE SECRET OF THE KEYS by Celia Blue Johnson

HOW TO BEGIN by Jill Talbot

YE OLDE TRIP TO JERUSALEM by Jeffrey Thomson


Poetry


Poetry Editor, Tom Haushalter

Associate Poetry Editor, Trevor Ketner

INDIAN COUNTRY by Kenzie Allen

SUICIDE PREVENTION by Sarah Blake

ON PRODUCE SHIFT by Rebecca Bornstein

BAREFOOT BOOTS by J. Scott Brownlee

THEATER OF ELSEWHERE by Robert Campbell

HOW IS KNOWING THAT SUPPOSED TO HELP by Christopher Citro

THIS IS TO CALM YOU WHEN YOU ARRIVE by Leah Umansky


Visual Art


Art Director, Jennifer K. Beal Davis

Associate Art Director, Matt Davis

Hédi Benyounes

Dina Brodsky

Hélène Delmaire

Klaus Enrique

Teresa Esgaio

Alexis Fish

Katty Huertas

Andy Kittmer

Jeeyoung Lee (cover)

Matthias Leutwyler

Adam Lupton

Jarek Puczel

Christine Wu

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