Sunday, March 28, 2010

Matt Bell's Wolf Parts

I say WOLF, but of course there are various kinds of wolves.

When I found out Bell was releasing a minibook retelling the story of Little Red Riding Hood, I knew this story would not be one for my mother's 1st grade class. Rather, Wolf Parts is a collection of fragmented flash fictions that took me to sights I wish I wouldn't have seen, but at the same time, feel like a different man for seeing. Stories, I believe, should do something to me. These flashes frighten me, enliven me, rage me, touch me with their haunting metaphors and visual descriptions.

The image I can't get out of my head is Red laying naked on the skinned fur of the Wolf, after her dad has killed him to prove a lesson about protecting his daughter. When Bell writes, When she howled, it was with her mouth against his unhearing ear, her lips close to his stretched and taxidermied jaws, full of the teeth she had just once felt so lovingly against her skin. , I was at once disturbed and also moved by Bell's ability to capture such haunting moments with his pitch perfect language.

My mind is full, I said, in a previous post, from processing images like these: predatory, daring, truthful. In these stories, the predator changes: the Wolf of course, but also the grandmother as the wolf, the woodsman as a killer, Red and other girls as wolf-slayers. We are all wolves, it seems, or we have the chance to be.

I can't quite say enough about this collection as a whole. Each story shouts with a such ferocity and diversity that I will have trouble sleeping tonight, not from being afraid of the Wolf, but rather from being afraid of language and all its power.


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