Michalski’s From Here

“…as naked as the day they were born, not far from the event itself…”

”Neighbors,” From Here by Jen Michalski


I’ve read Jen Michalski’s From Here. I’ve looked over some of her online interviews— Michalski is a wonderful person and writer. And I can tell that from her work. If you take anything away from this blog entry of her collection, remember that…

I think it’s important to note the religious scholar Abraham Joshua Heschel:

“When I was young, I used to admire intelligent people; as I grow older, I admire kind people.”

When I was young, I wanted to be a crafty, influential writer. I daydreamed. I read. I wrote. What I didn’t expect what would happen to me as time took course, that I’d become less and less concerned about my fate as a writer and more concerned with my role as a human being. And I think Jen gets that.

A question for her in Pank:

‘You talked a bit in your Atticus author feature about writing to check and see if you are being a human correctly. What did you learn about yourself after writing and putting together these stories?’

She says, “I think the biggest lesson I’ve learned from writing From Here is that none of us really belong, and because we’re all outside looking in, we all belong together. “

The collection sets a tone of detachment for us as human beings to work from. To work on us from. From Here…

The initial story is a flash about two camping lovers entwined fatefully with the universe. And it’s after this flash, after this communion of souls and oneness, that Jen begins to break down those barriers of unity and our very physical world and reality, what separates us, what (as Ethel Rohan points out in her blurb on the back cover) we neglect.

Michalski navigates into stories about two teens, one in need, the other in surplus–a drug dealer. She goes into a divorced, childless mother. The same woman who babysits and watches twins from windows and a house who knows ‘…what grows there. How it is done…’ while touching the very physical double itch of her stomach at story’s end.

Jen writes about broken plates, broken people and hearts, yards and yet the distances between in The Queen of Swords. I’m not going to go thematically through every story. But I am going to go through the changes I went through as a person, not only in reading Jen’s work, but learning more about her through those interviews.

In Fictionaut, Jen says her perception of her work changed as she continued to write:

“I always like to think of it as when I was a little younger, I was more interested in distilling the essence of things into the short form, making a statement, because I didn’t have much experience in the world and I was still learning myself.”

We are always learning ourselves. What Jen gives us here is a box to think out of, look into, see these people, us separated from that which binds us outside looking in. Being observers and being the observed looking in the mirror.

When reading this collection from Aqueous Books, I often felt like Alice in Wonderland: sometimes confused, but mostly stumbling down the rabbit hole. And it wasn’t necessarily the one Jen intended, but was the one I chose watching real life.

Jen writes eloquently about the pitfalls and tragedies that befit us if we care to look, if we care to observe, if we are alone with ourselves long enough to notice the broken, neglected places.

It’s Jen who stops and examines those cracks.

It’s very methodical to ask oneself if you are acting like a human correctly. But when you do, and I think after reading this collection one would agree, it’s not only a question we should ask ourselves, but be aware that people out there are using as well to judge us. This is a war. If ever there was a term for domestic war, it is for the conflicts in this text. These are domestic disputes: a scorned lover smashing china or a teenage girl engulfed in drug dealing to her peers. I think what I began to recognize as I continued through these stories that as much as there is self-help and new age guidance, there is acting like a human correctly–how we balance ourselves and own personal image of ourselves in contrast with society and the people around us. Stereotypes. What is taboo. What is good and what is bad? It’s a tug of war between more than heaven and hell and it happens in From Here.

When I was young, I used to admire writers, but as I grow older, I admire people.

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