Buzzed Books #86 by Aurora Huiza
The Kiss: Intimacies From Writers is a lovely arrangement of vignettes, short stories, essays, and poems. Each is a quick, satisfying read. They all have to do with the act of kissing. More broadly, they are about intimacy. And if bountiful, rapturous show of affection is possible, then there are also festering wounds and forever scars. The body remembers a kiss just as it remembers trauma and violence. Experiences are lasting and they inform the trajectories of lives. So it is refreshing that some of these stories also explore bad kisses, violation, and loss. Major Jackson’s piece is particularly memorable in this respect. He writes about observing a young couple kissing, and admits that their love reaches a part of him “that needs healing.” Even in adulthood, he can move back into his “childhood of violence” like walking “through a door.”
Many of these pieces are doors. We walk through them and sit for a few pages in somebody else’s waking life. In doing so we remember our first kiss, our first time. Rebecca Makkai offers us a brief but powerful story about what it’s like to be in college and miss your period, something that many might recognize. She later learns “that when Cassiopeia was cast into the sky as a chain of stars, an angry Poseidon ensured she’d spend half the night standing on her head.” A woman’s life, it seems, is turned upside down because of a man. She makes us think of the things that almost happened to us, of how scared we have been for the future we currently live, and of the people we knew briefly but fiercely.
Upon finishing the book, some standouts naturally come to mind. Who you are likely determines which writers you latch on to. There is something for everyone. Terrance Hayes recalls the first time his father kissed him. He prefaces this with a fictional story about a giant named Tall Paul. Tall Paul kisses his father. “The kiss was so near his ear,” Hayes writes, “the giant could have whispered something about sadness to him. They pretended it had not happened.” We ache and we long to share our deepest sorrows, and especially to connect with our parents.
Some writers truly make us hurt. Laure-Anne Bosselaar finds a poem her late lover wrote about her. He had written that there is a kiss for her left inside him. He says “it will be the last of me to die.” Much of this collection is simple but grand in this way. Such is love.
There are plenty of small truths and great lines. The shudder of a train reminds Honor Moore of a man that was once beneath her. The comparison is heavy and jarring.
The book can also be funny. Christopher Paul Wolfe offers us a slice of intimate family life. In bed with his wife, he tells her, “‘I want you more than Hillary wanted Barack’s soul.’”
These writers all bare their souls. This anthology is inclusive and refreshing. Our most sacred memories as readers are lodged in these pages. It is a book best read in parts over time, and it is meant to be mulled over. Otherwise you might find yourself overwhelmed with feeling. You might have to call your mom gushing. It’s something you’ll want to flip through every now and then, especially in your most emotionally vulnerable moments. Brian Turner did an excellent job curating an honest, diverse assortment of work.
Aurora Huiza is from Los Angeles, California. She is an undergraduate student at NYU studying English and Creative Writing. She writes fiction and creative nonfiction.