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Sunday, January 12, 2014

"Corruption" by Lisa Mannetti

First appeared in Nightscapes: Volume 1.

Lisa Mannetti has won the Bram Stoker, but these two stories are my first of hers (here's the other, "Hunger Artist"). Clearly, she is a talented writer. Both evoke well the early twentieth century--the problems and concerns. She has a sentence-level mastery that's impressive, which rarely gets the better of sense (one sentence spoke of a hand "curving" an object when it wasn't creating a curve but simply following it). She is one of those writers to watch. At least I'll be looking out for her name.

In these two stories, it is the center nugget where the author draws her narrative strength although both might benefit from shearing off their beginnings. This one has the stronger ending.

In this, a young woman opens the tale contemplating suicide, holding a bottle of carbolic acid (despite having a degree in chemistry, I had to look it up. It's a weak acid--now called phenol--that numbs your throat when you gargle Chloraseptic). You could say I'm spoiling the story, but the opening intends to hint at the ending anyway.

She falls in love with a beloved playmate she's grown up with. However, they are not the same class, so she's harassed, even maimed. When she's displaying the wound to another who hopes to share her pain, she's discovered by other girls who concoct an affair between girls.

It's an  effective story of doom and conspiracy where people, who could come forward to your aid, don't. As it sheds light on humanity's uglier side, it's one that should be read. Mob mentality and fear of it are still too common.

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