Sunday, April 21, 2013

"The Visited" by Anaea Lay :: Aaron's Story Recommendation of the Week

My story recommendation of the week is for "The Visited" by Anaea Lay, from the April 2013 issue of Lightspeed magazine. This is Anaea Lay's second SROTW.

"The Visited" is the obituary of musician Manuel Black, written by a former fan and lover. Black became a huge celebrity, because his music somehow helped people to make sense of the "Visitation," when everyone in the world had a vision of an unnaturally beautiful man or woman, accompanied by an intense sense of longing. But our narrator was a devoted fan even before the Visitation; here she describes his earlier work:
It’s still him, but now he’s angry. He hasn’t found his Morrisonian black leather pants yet, but he’s not afraid of the audience anymore. Curls fly around his face as he stares them down, challenging them to answer the questions he raises with his lyrics, to justify the world in the face of his seething despair and melancholy. Critics of the time wrote the music off as angst-ridden wankery. Audiences found it unpalatably depressing and turned instead to catchy dance pop. Listen to it now and you’ll realize his melancholy was a foreshadowing of the post-Visitation malaise waiting for all of us, that his anger was founded in an optimistic belief that things could be different if we’d just bother to acknowledge they ought to be.
In this elegantly written story, Lay makes no attempt to explain what the Visitation really was. Her focus is on the enigmatic Manuel Black, and how an artist's work can transform the meaning of what is happening in his audience's lives, to tragic or transcendent effect.

I once had a friend, who had been a Deadhead in an earlier phase of life, try to explain what compelled fans to follow The Grateful Dead from concert to concert, but I didn't understand the communal experience he was describing. "The Visited" is a piece of fiction, a form of art, yet it enables me to appreciate my friend's real-world experience in a way his factual words couldn't——and oddly enough, that's just what this story is about.

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