Jackie Corley’s The Suburban Swindle (So New Publishing, 100 pages ) paints a specific place in a specific time with a specific aesthetic in a timeless style which transcends narrative mode and delivers a straight-served good story. Short works bound together through an ultimately honest, sometimes naïve narrator showcase Corley’s ability to communicate what it is to be a young, smart, bored person in the suburban life, which in its own way at times, reads as surprisingly feminist.
“That’s me. I’m some guy’s girlfriend. I don’t fight. I only talk when I have something cute or catty to say. These are the rules.”
A more sophisticated, white America version of Sandra Cisneros’ House On Mango Street, Swindle gives us insight in a way which provides room to commiserate, luminating universality within what it is to be in a mode of life we don’t believe is our destiny.
Conversely, through the hemming and the hawing, we are given a narrator who appreciates where she has come from, who looks at certain parts of her plight with kind eyes, a sort of un-apologetic nostalgia which works. Which reads like the narrator’s tough voice -with a stronger back-bone than a story about what goes wrong entirely.
Within Corley’s un-paralleled ability to write with clarity, there are poetics, both complicated and simple.
“I hopped one foot on the curb and left the other tripping into storm drains.”
In Corley’s own way, the work feels like an ode to her characters. A deep rooted love of the people she’s painting through the eyes of an incredibly layered young woman.
“And you’d thumb your jawline and grin without any real confidence, bitching her out in the back of your head because you knew you couldn’t answer her without losing some of your dignity…Mac’s laugh, with its requisite thigh-slapping, rumbles coarsely over his smoke-scarred larynx toward the front of the car.”
Corley, an independent publisher herself of Word Riot Press, has a unique ability to paint the dark with a simultaneously aggressive and delicate manner, exploring deep metaphysics and religion while maintaining a voice in clarity and in logic. She is a wordsmith with a gift for the real. Stories surrounding diners, night-life drawn by daredevil characters with lives ahead of them, ultimately turning toward a sensual mode, the book encompasses what it is to be in suburban life and entirely aware of it.
–Nicolle Elizabeth, author of Read This Sh*t Out Loud (forthcoming).
The fog is starting to creep back from the slick, cold road. He stares through the fog, far back there confident in a memory.
“What are you about?” I say and he just shakes his head and laughs, starts walking again.
His steps are lighter, more assured, and he just shakes his head and laughs, starts walking again…
…“Here I was thinking you’d turned to stone,” Jack says. “It’s all made up. You’re as raw a recruit as ever.”
He tries snaking his hand through my arm but I turn sideways and amble ahead, letting his hand slide back out.
He stops again, heavy on his heels, thumbs back in his waistband. I’m not waiting on this. I’m bounding ahead with my chin slinking down my chest. My ears are hot and my throat is dry, splintered.
“Hey,” he shouts behind me…
…Years and years so, when we first started having sex, we used to stop each other in front of mirrors-bedroom mirrors, bathroom mirrors. We’d put out flushed faces together, skin all lit to a slow burn underneath, and we’d sway and stare and smile, knowing something.
I scratch at the gloss of the memory, trying to get the taste of the live metal tinge back under my tongue. My mouth is dry and my reflection is yellow and thin and dull. I feel awkward, numb in the pose. I smile briefly at our worn faces in the mirror.
“It’s us, dirty and hung over,” I say, patting his pale chest.