Over the past year, I’ve been reading short stories from a variety of local literary journals. Since not many people read literary journals, and not many people read the whole journal (at least I don’t), I want to bookmark one story each month so that others may find them.
This month’s pick is ‘I, Dangle’ by Shannon Burns. I came across ‘I, Dangle’ in Issue Six (‘The Ethical Issue’) of Etchings, a story about a man debating whether to take his clothes off at a public beach. Through the insistent repetition of words and phrases, Burns achieves a wonderful neurotic monologue for his protagonist:
I say, she has revealed her breasts. Yes she has taken off the top part of her bikini and revealed her breasts. I should return the sentiment in some way. I assume that returning the sentiment is what is required of me. She has removed her bikini top and now it is time for me to make a similar gesture.
But how? What shall I do? I could take off my shirt but what will that accomplish? Every male on the beach has his shirt off. There is nothing taboo about a male on the beach with his shirt off, showing his male breasts. There is, on the other hand, something decidedly curious about a female prancing about with her breasts bared on this beach, on a beach like the beach we have come to. When I decided to accompany her to this beach I had no idea that she had it in mind to reveal her breasts. Is it legal for a woman to bare her breasts on a public beach? I’m not sure… (p. 114)
I’m a sucker for form, and Burns explores the issue of public nudity (male vs. female, adult nudity around children, etc.) in an entertaining fashion, so ‘I, Dangle’ is this month’s win for me.
If you haven’t come across Etchings, (the high quality triannual journal from Ilura Press), Issue Six is definitely worth a read with Ryan O’Neill’s beautifully written ‘Collected Stories’, and Christopher Lappas’ thoughts on Kevin Rudd’s apology to the Stolen Generation.