You may already know Five Dials, a (mainly monthly) literary
magazine published by Hamish Hamilton, one of Penguin's imprints. If you don't, you probably should – the
magazine is free and promotes work from both emerging and established talents. Over the
years it has featured a diverse collection of literary fiction and non-fiction from
the likes of Zadie Smith, Hari Kunzru and Noam Chomsky, amongst many others.
The Five Dials team is going to start guest blogging here on The Penguin Blog – all their posts will be in the FiveDials category (we're literal minded in many ways…) so you can easily find them in the future. And here's the first.
At Five Dials, we rarely know what's going to happen when we start putting
together an issue. While assembling our 25th issue, which you can download here,
we were offered the chance to hold a contest. Actually, it might be a stretch to
call it a contest. It's more like we became, albeit briefly, a literary
orphanage trying to find safe homes for lost children. The children, in this
case, are a collection of beginnings by Vancouver-based short story writer
A while ago, we implored Zsuzsi to send in a new
story for the issue. Instead, she offered up something better, both for us and
for you. Below this introduction you'll find a list of beginnings to Zsuzsi
stories – and, trust me, 'Zsuzsi stories' are a genre unto themselves. The
scenarios come from her imagination – there's no doubt about that – but the
middles and flourishes and endings will have to come from yours. These are,
after all, orphans, and they deserve a good life somewhere in the world, even if
it's far from their place of origin. Zsuzsi included her mailing address at the
end of the fragments. I've been told she's off email these days, so aspiring
writers will have to send a postcard instead. Get in there fast. Each beginning
can only be adopted once. Zsuzsi even mentioned she'll send back adoption
certificates to each lucky parent. The caveat: we'd like to see the resulting
stories. Send Zsuzsi a postcard telling her which beginning you've chosen, write
the thing, and send it to us. Who knows? We may include it in our next short
fiction issue, nestled amidst names like Frank O'Connor and Lydia Davis and D.W.
Short Story Openings (circa 1996-2012) Looking for a Loving Home
1) The Time I
Then there was the time I tried to get my life made into a television series
but failed. Everything ordinary happened to be in great demand. “Let’s hear
what the ordinary people have to say,” that anchorman, the one everyone
trusted, would say.
2) Karl: You would
think they’d talk about money all the time. That’s what you’d think. All the
time, endlessly, like a broken record, non-stop, ad naseum, infinitus spiritus amen. But they don’t.
They talk about anything but. You have to make them sometimes. Get them to
confront the incredible magnitude of their good fortune. Shove their faces into
the enormity of it. But gently.
That’s Karl’s job.
3) Sperm Donor: The first
time he saw the child he was startled that the boy looked nothing like him. My son.
4) Corner Office: Things were
supposed to be different with Corner Office, brudder. Just wait ‘til Corner
Office, I kept telling Twyla as her tears dripped onto the suction line offa
l’il Felix’s shunt (every-so-often the generator goes and then it’s DIY),
everything thing will be better when I get to Corner Office. If you could see
l’il Felix now, with his flappy hands and cruxifying smile, oh your heart would
5) Chastity: Sometimes
they appear in great bunches, streaming down the street like a circus parade.
Sometimes just out of the corner of your eye, when you’re not thinking about
anything much. The women and their wild beasts. Can’t they give it a rest?
The nuns are the worst.
6) The Third Sister I: The
barbarians are chewing. Chew chew chew all summer long. Blood pools on their
plates, just the way they like it. The mothers wear halter tops; the fathers
take off their watches; we run barefoot in the street, a thick seam of tar
bubbles in the centre of the road and sticks to our feet. There are no boys on
this block, except for spindly Johnny Falconi who hides his shovel teeth behind
his mother's orange curtains. Girls run rampant, no boy could survive here. We
run low to the ground, knees bent, hands dragging like monkey paws so that they
don't see us. They are the barbarians. We see them through their haze of
cigarettes and BBQ smoke and choked laughter. We watch our backs.
7) After Almadovar: What grown
man can say that he married his own mother, and that although heartbreak was
involved, no-one disapproved?
8) St. Elizabeth
of the Miracle of the Roses: Anastasia Nagy is on a rampage. The boy,
honestly he’s just a boy, they’ve chosen to play Zoltan is horribly unsuitable.
It’s like casting Macaulay Culkin to play Heathcliff. She claims she can see
the peach fuzz still gleaming on his cheeks. She writes fire and they give her
green fruit! She burns up the telephone lines and is truly inconsolable.
9) The BBQ Nun: She came to
us from Kansas City with smoke in her habit, shorn hair glinting copper. She
came with her guitar and her firm belief in penance and her expertise in all
things eschatological, although the latter was more of a private preoccupation
than a part of her duties at Sacred Heart. She came with her talk of judgement,
but there was always a kind of smile on her face and she even made the idea of
Hellfire seem like fun.
10) The Third
The third sister with her bare skull like a crystal ball, but milky blue. When
Betty and Lydia want to touch it she makes them pay. Sometime in pennies, sometimes in blood.
11) Lawn Boy: They say
that if a house is on fire and a woman has to choose between her child and
another – her husband, her lover – she will choose the child.
What if I told you I would choose differently?
What do you think of me now?
For Adoption Papers Write to (and please specify
PO Box 21513 LITTLE ITALY
VANCOUVER, BC V5L 3X0/V5L 5G2