Monday, February 6, 2012

Betwixt and Between: A Review of Interfictions

Interstitial fiction is a difficult thing to define, particularly because, as several scholars have noted, once you define it, it ceases to be intersititial and becomes its own category.  Interfictions, an anthology edited by Theodora Goss and Delia Sherman, steps around this problem by defining interstitial fiction descriptively--providing about twenty short stories that demonstrate what it means to be interstitial.

Many of the stories seem to position themselves within a certain set of genre conventions, but then turn these conventions on their head, leaving the reader feeling unsettled and uncertain.  Veronica Schanoes' "Rats" is perhaps my favorite example of this, starting with the framework of a fairy tale and then using that framework to amplify the heartbreak of the real-life story of Nancy Spungen, the girlfriend of Sex Pistols' bassist Sid Vicious.

Another way in which many of the stories demonstrate their interstitiality is the way that they not only exist in between genres, but make the idea of in-betweenness a key theme.  As Goss says in a very interesting interview that closes the volume, "They are not only stories in between, they are also stories about in betweenness" (284).  Leslie What's "Post Hoc" does this wonderfully, telling the story of Stella, who sends herself through the mail to get in touch with her ex-boyfriend and ends up living in the post office--the ultimate interstitial space.

The interstitiality of the stories in Interfictions also comes out in the way that they are told--there is quite a bit of experimentation with form, style, and structure that reflects the in-between nature of the content of the story.  Karen Jordan Allen's "Alternate Anxieties," for example, alternates between straightforward narrative and what look to be definitions, lists, and notes for a story that the narrator is writing.  These interstitial forms are particularly intriguing as they not only enhance the stories that are being told, but they also expand our idea of what we could consider interstitial fiction.

And so in the end, it is these stories that are most helpful when considering what interstitial fiction is.  Goss and Sherman provide helpful insights in their interview, and Heinz Insu Fenkl's introduction is useful for putting the idea of interstitiality in context, but the stories themselves are (rightfully) the real heart of this collection's attempt to define interstitial fiction.