SOME PEOPLE BELONG INSIDE | Shannon Peavey.
The Masters Review | New Voices.
⇒The (anti)hero of this story, Terrare, is stuck for life in a prison full of demented criminals and bizarre psychos. He’s here because… Well, you’ll find out quickly enough why Terrare is in jail, though the reason for his confinement isn’t entirely made explicit. It’s pretty clear what he was up to before going to prison, though.
So Terrare is here in jail with various unsavory types whose crimes aren’t necessarily the most run-of-the-mill. Terrare makes friends/falls in love with a woman named Priya, who is in prison for turning her daughters into trees (but not cedars, so they weren’t made into pencils). Yeah, trees. And someone else in this prison is a convicted identity thief, which in this case doesn’t refer to stolen social security and credit card numbers but rather stolen appearances–she literally took the form of her victims. So, the most literal identity theft of all.
This piece, in case you haven’t noticed, is definitely on the speculative side, but not in any hard-sci-fi way; more like there are flourishes of magic or surrealism, moments in which the readers must suspend their disbelief, but the speculative/fantastic elements are more accents than defining characteristics of this amazing, dark, totally eccentric short story.
Oh yeah, and our (anti)hero Tarrare likes to eat things: rocks, trays, his shoes… He’s always hungry, and we’re talking about that gnawing sort of existential hunger, too, that never-ever-enough hunger.
This story, however grounded in its isolated prison world, definitely takes a few trips through Beckett-land (with brief layovers in Kafka-ville).
The author of this piece has done a masterful job of creating a stark, tactile environment that is totally believable and totally absurd at the same time. The characters, their crimes and mental states, are all fairly horrific, yet this story does not wallow in its bleakness. It’s funny, darkly funny of course, and does a really good job of walking that Literary/genre tightrope that so many authors have tumbled from. It can be tough to carry big Literary, human-condition-y ideas through a story that’s simply having fun with its form and characters and environment, but there’s no reason a story can’t be totally immersed in its speculative world while suggesting truths about our own, as this piece skillfully demonstrates.