Ivan E. Coyote (Loose End, Bow Grip), one of the country’s most intelligent storytellers, is well known for her love of extended “identity” divagations and her amusing discussions of how her gender perplexes those around her. Her most recent work demonstrates this love.
In one tale, Coyote describes the difficulty of explaining her urgent need to urinate. At the same time, the gas station employee responsible for giving her the right key must determine whether she wants the male or female restroom. The outcomes? Like most of these intensely condensed and fiercely crafted submissions, it is hilarious, genuine, completely fascinating, and thought-provoking.
A component of the telling
Even though the collection occasionally comes off as a little too reportorial, that aspect of the narrative more than justifies itself by reflecting the goals of both the form and the substance of The Slow Fix: To challenge gender-role stereotypes, to remove the linguistic and sexual ambiguity that attaches itself to what “different” actually entails, to bravely step beyond it, to embrace it with expression and élan.
The author’s image on the book’s cover, a Yukon native, amply illustrates her predicament: Throughout the story By Any Other Name, Coyote and her Uncle Bob indulge in some severe male bonding; in The Curse, her cousin enlightens her regarding the conventions surrounding that enigmatically feminine tampon-purchasing process.
In the moving title story, she struggles against social norms and expectations to ultimately find a solid voice to express her simmering wrath, ordering the homophobe sitting next to her to “shut up.”
To Whom It May Concern, a disarmingly cruel yet excruciatingly sensitive letter to a buddy who mysteriously vanishes is perhaps the greatest of the delightfully deceiving, down-to-earth bounty. It cuts so close to flesh and bone that it will rip your heart to pieces: “This ignorance I promised you that night on the back porch that I would do whatever it took, anything in my power to see you through this time, but I had one condition. Recall when I dragged you off the street and let you sleep it off for days. Since I am aware of the demon that meth is, my only requirement was that you not use it. I only asked that you stop telling me lies in the future.”