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Op-Ed


by Peter Rock, author of This is the Place

Vice, I believe, is over-romanticized. As I understand it, vice is something one does to make life more bearable which can, eventually, make life unbearable. This interests writers because people like stories that 1) are titillating and 2) make them feel morally superior. Vice is easier to write about than virtue (note Dante's Inferno/Paradiso or Milton's Paradise Lost/Regained), as it is more understandable to "fallen man"--however, I think notions of vice depend on some feeling (longing?) for its opposite, virtue. Perhaps one of our most difficult tasks--as writers and as people--is the attempt to be virtuous, and to figure how virtue might be better, truer entertainment.

 

Whether it's sex, drugs & rock-n-roll or vices of an altogether different bent, vice is an eternally compelling subject that writers have historically explored to the fascination of readers everywhere. What is it about the depravity in others that keeps us turning the pages so obsessively?

To answer that question, or rather, indulge the reader's voyeuristic tendencies, we have gathered together for this issue a group of writers whose work covers the entire spectrum of vice. Every sin is accounted for. No immoral stone has been left unturned. From murder to mutilation and severe drug addiction to sexual deviation, these authors have plumbed the depths of vice in all of its various shapes and forms. Our interview with Alan Warner is both illuminating and hilarious. Read the excerpt from Morvern Callar for a unique piece of fiction about a Mediterranean rave, or let him read to you thanks to the wonders of RealAudio. Kevin Canty's essay on alcohol may make you feel as if you've had a stiff one yourself, or that your own imbibing is really nothing to worry about after all. Jenefer Shute weighs in with a funny account of the intense reaction she received to her gripping tale of sexual obsessiveness taken too far. Stewart O'Nan's ruminations on violence in drama provide a interesting look at a theme central to all of his novels, while his two exclusive audio readings are reminders of the simple pleasure of a good short story. Fred Leebron offers a look at a work-in-progress, as well as a short story that delivers upon the promise of vice in spades.

Don't forget to check the Back of the Book for short stories from Rand Richards Cooper and Shirley Jackson, an interesting, somewhat disturbing rant from Mark Richard, an excerpt from Nicholas Christopher's Veronica and a poem by David Mura. They all make great quick reads, so print them out for your next commute.

 
Elizabeth McCracken   In more wholesome news, congratulations to Elizabeth McCracken, who was presented with the 1996 Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writer Award at a ceremony and reading (photo at left) in New York on March 13th. McCracken's editor, Susan Kamil, was awarded the LMP Award for "Adult Trade Editorial" one week earlier. Both McCracken and her editor were featured in Bold Type last month.

Share the gift of literature with a friend. Copy and paste the poem into an email or print out and send a short story. It's easy and free, just don't claim you wrote it.


Next month, Bold Type asks our writers to ponder death, because we all gotta go sometime.

Happy reading!


Larry Weissman


Photo of Elizabeth McCracken by Larry Weissman
 
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