Quiet Conquests

Last night, I attended a book release party for a forthcoming Freerange performer. Joseph Salvatore recently published his first collection of short stories, entitled, To Assume a Pleasing Shape (BOA Editions, 2011), and judging by the excerpt he read, the book is top notch. As I listened to Joe read a piece about an NYC academic considering breast-reduction surgery, I thought about the notion of conquest. While, on the surface, the subject of breast reduction doesn’t come across as a type of conquest, let alone a brand-spanking new topic, the author dove deep into a character’s mind, exploring the transcription of her inner monologue. The narrator harnessed the thoughts of the rejected, the mistreated, the afraid . . . human beings. Joe’s story made me think, I could be any of those characters: A Gulf War veteran plagued by a sexual identity crisis. A body-pierced goth girl cage-dancing for a living while putting herself through school, people searching for meaning and truth and reconciliation in the murkiest of territories, the spiritual isolation underlying the human condition . . . To Assume a Pleasing Shape may be fiction, but it’s just as close to the truth as an encyclopedia entry, if not closer. (Happy Columbus Day, by the way.)

Every day, our minds are presented with the opportunity to accept or reject what we’ve been told is the truth about us. Convention. We can accept what we see, we can carry on, fumbling around our our smart phones during moments of nothingness/silence. Or we can be brave, explore, untangle, rearrange, unlearn, unlock, and rediscover.

Speaking of discovery, this week on Freshly Hatched, we have an essay by Jessica Chrastil, entitled “Norman Justice is Dead”:

All year we are on the floor, in the room, me and the man with the wife in New York. It’s a high room with a hard floor, strung up in a tall block of buildings near the lake where I once used to hang glide. We lie here on this hard floor, eat snacks from Dick’s Fine Food Quick Stop on Fourth. Corn beef on rye, ten tins of nuts, wax cups of warm gin. Wax cups of wine, warm cubes of blue cheese. Smoked trout on Ritz. Do you know how it feels to be sad, he says. CONTINUE READING

Let’s take minute this week to meditate on the idea of conquest. How nourishing it is to seek out our own answers, and how vital isolation and solitude is for this kind of growth. Because when we embrace solitude, the more deeply aware we are of our understanding of our surroundings, our future, our potential. This is when we begin to discover new worlds.

Yours sincerely,

Mira Ptacin
Founder & Executive Director of Freerange Nonfiction