Gently Read Literature, Summer 2012

Page 21

Mischievous Twinkle: David S. Atkinson on Alta Ifland’s story collection Death-InA-Box

Death-in-a-Box Alta Ifland Subito Press, 2011 I tend to read quite a bit. At least, I think it is quite a bit. Perhaps someone else might think that I don't read enough, but I feel like if I spend any more of my time reading then my family will end up staging an intervention. Regardless, reading as much as I do I sometimes get the feeling that I am reading something I have read before. Of course, sometimes I really do read something I have read before, but that isn't what I'm talking about. I mean that I read enough that some of it starts to sound the same. Plots, sentences, emotions, and whatnot can all start to seem like just another version of something else I've read. The real joy I found in reading Death-in-a-Box was that I did not have that sense of having read before. It wasn't just that some of the stories are pretty weird (because some are). I go in for that sort of thing so that wouldn't be that unusual for me. What I mean is more that the voices used in these stories wasn't one I was familiar with. It was different, off-kilter from anything I could remember reading recently. The opening paragraph of the title story is a perfect example: In the days when Death wasn't hidden behind a plastic door in a rectangular-shaped odorless funeral home, but was Life's sister, Beauty was clothed in the enigmatic glow of Death and walked in its shoes; then gradually, Death's mischievous twinkle in the eye was replaced by icy terror. But when I grew up, some people still remembered Death's playfulness and thought that if only they could beat it at its own game, they would eventually cheat death 21