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Editor’s Letter – 4/3/19

“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, who had ever been alive.” — James Baldwin

My mom died two weeks before my 30th birthday. I bought a plane ticket to New York months earlier, to celebrate the upcoming milestone with an old friend—a trip I took, though there didn’t seem to be much to celebrate. On the flight, my grief a wet wound, I reconnected with an all-time favorite novel: “The Stranger” by Albert Camus, which I read from cover to cover before touching down at JFK.

The book begins with the iconic opening line: “Mother died today. Or maybe yesterday; I can’t be sure.” From there, Camus spins the bruising and befuddling tale of Monsieur Mersault, an enigmatic weirdo unmoved by the chaotic and indifferent universe beating down on him. It ends—spoiler alert—with our anti-hero embracing life’s absurd antipathy from a prison cell: “I had only to wish that there be a large crowd of spectators the day of my execution and that they greet me with cries of hate.”

This might seem odd reading for a mourner on their birthday. But I too felt unanchored and driftless, stunned by the blows of existence, and at the mercy of forces beyond my control. I needed to spend time with Mersault—to try and solve the puzzle of understanding him, though it’s impossible, and hopefully, myself (also impossible). This is the weird and wonderful magic of reading.

This issue of The Tulsa Voice marks our second annual flash fiction contest, presented in partnership with our friends at Nimrod International Journal. Inside you’ll find five very short stories from Tulsa-area and Tulsa-connected writers that pricked, prodded, and delighted us in the best possible way.

I hope you’ll be moved and puzzled when the Statue of Liberty vanishes alongside the dreams of America’s heartland in our winning story, “Six Photos from the Lower Midwest: 1990-1997.” And that you’ll find yourself drawn in close by the delicate prose of “The Lover,” before being sliced open by its masterful ending. I hope you laugh when an absolutely buck-wild teen smacks another girl across the mouth with a leg brace in “All is Dull at the Kum & Go;” root for the heroine in “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man in Tulsa;” and call your grandparents, if they’re still with us, after reading “The Gathering Place.”

Weird and wonderful abounds. I hope these little stories show you something big.

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