BASS 2014: O. A. Lindsey, “Evie M.” from Iowa Review #43.1

Chris Arendt: "Standard Operating Procedure" (2010) via Combatpaper.org

Chris Arendt: “Standard Operating Procedure” (2010) via Combatpaper.org

You must adore digital cable. The search options have revolutionized me and everybody. Technology marches, no matter. You can be groped inside the hot metal gut of a troop carrier, or you can see things die and see pieces of dead things. I promise you it will not affect the remote control. Though I forgot to write down the name of the pop singer, with digital cable I can see into the future, and I will find her. This is amazing. She will come back.

People in chaotic situations often fixate on small details: if I can control the press of the fabric I wear, the distance between towels in the bathroom, the number of calories I eat, if I memorize the bus schedule for the entire city, maybe that means I’m in control of my life. Evie M. is in a chaotic situation. It doesn’t help that the chaos is inside her.

Here’s another hard-to-follow story. Because it’s told in first person, I wasn’t sure if the narrator was Evie M., or if the narrator is even male or female, since there are clues either way. Slowly, it dawned on me: Evie M. is a veteran of the war in the desert, with all that implies, and her post-war life has become an obstacle course of tv show reruns, frozen foods cooked with to-the-minute timing, recalcitrant copy machines, small packets of coffee creamer, and a workplace full of idiocy where the insignificant is magnified out of all proportion.

Supervisor yelled at me today. So close I could smell his cologne. He barked that I wasn’t “into it” the way I needed to be. Sandalwood. In consequence, I couldn’t finish my first note, to my father. What if everyone counted on someone else to locate the clerical errors?, he demanded. What if everyone produced reports whose pages crinkled because of a stupid copy jam? What if the whole damn order of things broke down?

Too late. The whole damn order of things broke down for Evie somewhere in the desert when this dog… well, that would be a spoiler, and an unnecessary one at that, since the story (a fairly short one) is available online (thank you, Iowa Review!).

Also available is an interview with Lindsey, a veteran himself. He comments on the character of Evie, for whom “even the trivial is terrorizing. Perhaps this is a result of war—itself a juxtaposition of mundane and atrocious—or maybe it’s because she just doesn’t fit her surroundings.”

It’s interesting how we never seem to realize what our veterans are going through until the arts – literature, movies – tell us. Maybe that’s self-preservation of the status quo: We couldn’t vote for politicians who raise fears to continue wars, expand wars, start new wars, if we had any idea what we were subjecting our fellow citizens, our fellow humans, to as a result. We’d rather not know, have some vague idea of PTSD from some news report that quotes statistics, and pat ourselves on the back for our patriotism. Evie M. isn’t a statistic. I’m not sure what she is – I’m not sure she knows either – but a statistic isn’t even among the choices.

A word about the header art: I discovered the Combat Paper Project while researching this post; art from the project was used to illustrate this Spring 2013 issue of Iowa Review:

Through papermaking workshops, veterans use their uniforms worn in service to create works of art. The uniforms are cut up, beaten into a pulp and formed into sheets of paper. Participants use the transformative process of papermaking to reclaim their uniforms as art and express their experiences with the military.

~~Combat Paper Project

Stop by, check it out. The art is marvelous. The project is even better. Maybe through art, we can understand, and that’s where change begins.

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6 responses to “BASS 2014: O. A. Lindsey, “Evie M.” from Iowa Review #43.1

  1. Thanks for posting this one too–also studying it for voice. Your blog is my new go-to resource. I’ll share it with my class, “Writing Fiction.” Thank youuuuuu!

    • Well, ok, but… you know I’m an idiot, right? 😉

      Seriously, I love talking BASS (and Pushcart) and so few people are willing to talk about it without either over- or under-rating it. I’ve stopped worrying about whether a story is “good” or not (how would I know) or eve if I “like” a story or not, and started looking at how what the writer’s done affects me. Some very interesting things come out of looking at why I don’t like a story – and once in a while, putting together my thoughts even changes my mind.

      • You are not an idiot–at all–and that is the alchemy of writing (us writers), our “putting together thoughts even changes minds.”
        Can I quote you?

      • lol, you’re funny! Quote me? Sure, go ahead – just don’t tell me when whomever you’re quoting me to points out all the ways I truly am an idiot.

        I’m very serious, though, about writing as a way to figure out my way to some semblence of truth. Nothing helps me understand any concept more than writing about it, which is why I blog in the first place. Somehow, putting words on, um, well, not paper, on the internet, where anyone can come by and see them, forces me to be rigorous and not cut corners and just rely on “you know what I mean,” at least to a large extent.

        And sometimes, I realize as I’m putting together my list of grievances about a story, I end up seeing new things. The most stunning example is Rebecca Curtis’ “Christmas Miracle” (post found here). I think of that every time I hate a story – maybe I hate what I think it’s doing, but it’s really doing something entirely different, and if I see it for what it is, not what I wish it were or what I thought it was, I’ll find something great. I learned a lot about that from reading Ken Nichols’ blog.

  2. Pingback: BASS 2015: Arna Bontemps Hemenway, “The Fugue” from Alaska Quarterly Review, #31 | A Just Recompense

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