Fissures, Grant Faulkner’s collection of 100-word stories, is beautiful in its smallness. Faulkner’s stories are constructed to capture the essence of longer works with acerbic brevity. They have the characteristic of snippets of an anecdote you might hear on a bus ride home from work. These stories represent the intriguing moments that intrude on the frequent banality of our lives. In each, Faulkner captures the crux of a moment that might lead us to miss our stop so that we might finish eavesdropping.
These ephemeral works are meditative like well-crafted haiku. And much like a well-crafted haiku, they are not a simple formal exercise. We sense the expanse between the characters. At times, the pieces reveal a despair that is merely petty. At times, strong precarious passions create compelling tension that reveals insight. Such insight is captured in the “The Second Hand” when the protagonist muses, “that each of their acts, no matter how distant in mind, ended in a kind of murder or its kissing cousin suicide.”
But above all the work has a wistful quality. In his story “Souvenir”, Faulkner captures such regret with his expert succinctness: “True lovers are experts at creating penitentiaries.” Even the notion of a successful relationship is tainted with a vein of punitive regret. This regret emerges often from a fragile sense of masculinity that has not fully adapted to the current world. The recurring character Gerard captures this sentiment in “Hammering” when Faulkner writes “You should have asked me about restrained desire.” The character expresses both the masculine privilege to lust and to deny. This story like many others depicts men asserting a fragile masculinity against the weight of loss and absence. These men we meet so briefly are often at a loss because a relationship has ended, or lingered too long, or has never begun.
Faulkner presents heterosexual masculinity like a rump state of a once larger and more influential power much in the same way that the Eastern Byzantine Empire remained after the dissolution of the Roman Empire. Certainly, it exerted an overly powerful cultural influence, but it lacked catholic authority. Faulkner’s genius perhaps intuits this situation, leading him to direct his attention away from the imperious pompousness of the novel to a fragmentary form better suited to critical observations.
But Faulkner’s pieces do not all stay within the boarder of this rump stage. The piece “Nothing is True, Everything is Permitted” ascribed to William Burroughs embodies the Queer author of Queer. The provocation and fluidity of the language mark the flexibility in Faulkner’s voice. The insistent flow of passages like “Cut word lines—Shift linguals—Vibrate tourists—Free Doorways—Break through Gray Room” differ greatly from the more conventional language found in the rest of the collection. In transgressing a border, Faulkner finds a greater freedom to play.
This slim volume does not escape dominant social pressures. But that is far from its purpose. Fissures instead allows us to see the cracks in the façade of everyday life. Faulkner’s work reminds the reader that even though we may ignore it, we should from time-to-time observe the grotesque and decadent features of our contemporary world.
By Grant Faulkner