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Monday, July 14, 2008

Contributor Spotlight: Elizabeth Searle

'Grotesque' is not grotesque, not to me-- the word, I mean. With its jaunty French 'que', it has a festive, defiant flair. I was surprised but satisfied too when I found my short story about a young woman losing her virginity on camera was going to be featured in this particular issue. It felt right to me; it made me realize that this strange tale was a sort of horror story. The HFR cover image, too, struck the right note to me: the detached human trunk was horrifying, yes, but it was also seated slyly on a stool-- as if ponied up to a bar, ready to regale the invisible bartender with its headless woes. Throughout the 'Grotesque' issue, I found variations on this same darkly comic touch, as in the photographs of birds stuffed 'inside out,' or the opening line of Stuart Friebert's translation of Sylva Fischerova: "Yellow star shines like a cancer and pestilence..."

I love the innocence of 'Yellow star' so quickly twisting into the bloody shine of cancerous pestilence. "Puss-face" is a favorite 'shocking' phrase, laughingly repeated, from my nine year old son and his friends: third grade boys cheerfully obsessed with blood and gore. When fellow Moms express alarm, I weigh in with my own obvious theory: that the boys are just now learning about death, realizing it's real, and they are staring it down, laughing in its face. All healthier responses, to me, than ignoring or trying to ignore it. Recently when writing my own opera librettos, I read the libretto of the Magic Flute, and was struck by one climactic line, translated as: "We walk, with the power of music, in joy through death's dark night." I myself love art that attempts to stare down and in some way transform the ever-present horrors of flesh-and-blood take what might be merely gross in life and add the bold extra twists of vision that elevate it to the grander-sounding word: Grotesque.

Elizabeth Searle's TONYA & NANCY: THE ROCK OPERA premiered in February, 2008, with Triangle Productions and media coverage from Good Morning America, CNN, Fox and CBS. Future productions of the show are in the works for 2009. Elizabeth's story, "When You Watch Me" appears in issue #42.

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