Disclaimer: Irreantum is the literary journal sponsored by the Association for Mormon Letters of which I am currently president. I am also slated to edit the third issue of this reboot.
Irreantum 16.1 was released earlier this week and I have been making it last. I read the poems first, then the essays. All of which ranged from good to very good. I have saved the short stories for last. I have now read one of them, "Next of Kin" by Karen Rosenbaum, and I must write about it.
Karen's work is beautifully written, always. And she has this incomparable grasp of how long and close relationships work. This story concerns marriages and siblings, relationships within and across generations; and follows them over decades. This is the sort of thing one only expects to see in a novel. But Karen does it in 4,734 words.
This is not the critic lauding a short story because it feels like a novel and novels are the superior artform. They are distinct. They do different things. Karen is a master of the short story and nothing about "Next of Kin" is unlike an excellent short story. It's just that it's encroaching on the subject matter of great novels---and making us wonder why novels get all the credit.
Karen's work is often about relationships and moments that are definitional. This one deals with mortality over three different decades (the 1980, the 2000s, and the 2010s) and finds moments that are seamless within their decades and reflective over the decades.
Karen is one of my writing heroes, in part because of the role she has played in my own life. She was the first editor who really worked with me on a work of fiction (and arguably the last---the age of editors is ending). Then I moved into her ward. And she's wonderful, she really is.
It's nice to know the genius she shows of humanity and her love for humanity is reflected in her person.
If you don't know Karen, you can at least know her work. Read "Next of Kin."