Varieties of Estrangement, Intro

The Lovers II  by Rene Magritte

The Lovers II by Rene Magritte

Let us ask ourselves, Is there not already enough estrangement in the world? Sometimes, though, the familiar feels all too suffocating. Sometimes, we long for change. And no change comes without estrangement, of distancing from who or what we were … whether or not we recognize as much in the moment of its happening. Dante in the dark wood; Isabel Archer betrothed to Osmond in Rome; young Ruthie and Lucille keeping house under the half-watchful eye of their aunt Sylvie; Benjamin Braddock floating in his parents’ pool; Ryder the famous pianist sidetracked from a crowning hometown performance by obligation after obligation: Fiction in its hall-of-mirrors fashion can frame these passages in a revelatory way, make us see how it is only by distancing ourselves from what we know, and what we love, that we might (or might not) arrive … how did T.S. Eliot put it again? … where we started / And know the place for the first time.

These six stories—by David Ryan, Aarti Monteiro, Michelle Ross, Greg November, Ernie Wang, and Katie Yee—dive into varieties of estrangement, allowing readers at least, if not always the characters themselves, the opportunity to fathom a moment in which someone stands beside himself, or herself, or theirself, having become at least fleetingly different from who he or she or they were immediately prior.

This alternating pattern of distancing and reclamation may in fact constitute the substance of a life. It may be what keeps it interesting. It may be at the heart of what a reader seeks in fiction. For a fiction writer to recreate such an experience on the page is, to be sure … no mean feat.

Look for a story in this series from Epiphany every Wednesday leading up to the release of our Spring/Summer issue (featuring entirely new work), starting with the first, today, right now: “The Moan” by David Ryan.

- J.T. Price