Collapsible Horizon by Tantra Bensko is filled with stories that mesmerize, provoke and engage the reader in a roller-coaster ride through an illusory, yet familiar world. The collected stories are all fragments of a unified whole, tumbling towards the black hole of the “event horizon,” of which Bensko writes. What excited me about the stories was the energy surrounding them, the creative fervor involved in creating such Dystopian and otherworldly landscapes onto which the narrative is projected. There were moments I thought I was reading Beckett, and other moments when I thought I was reading Roald Dahl channeled in a most unique manner, and this chameleon-like quality of Bensko’s writing really worked for me in this collection.
Three of my favorite passages are listed below and they encapsulate the quality of the prose in the collection:
1: I feel like one of Grandpa’s hallucinations, as I hide my real self from him and his caregiver. My beliefs are not their beliefs. My words are not their words. My secrets are not their secrets.
I spray them with neem against scabies. I bring them apple cider vinegar to drink. I read to them of physics. The sound of her catalog page by page turning, accompanying my words. Grandpa snores while awake. (“Really” p. 61)
2: Teeminhoffer was late, but no one held it against him, as he was dead. He hadn’t been dead long, so didn’t know the ropes. He hadn’t been to the training session of how to change diapers by rolling them up under the guy, and then sticking the new diaper up under the old one, rolling him back over. So, he was going to be a little nervous when faced with doing that right off the bat. (“It’s Time” p. 93)
3: Nothing. No story at all. It sparkled.It was clean. It was good.The ground was becoming solid and stable underneath me. I breathed more deeply. My lungs breathed more deeply into me. The world breathed me. In and out. And out, out out. Icy white. (“Anti” p. 205)
If you’re looking for an escape from the territory of the everyday, craving a journey into a familiar, yet unfamiliar world, then Bensko’s collection will be a fine guide book for that journey. Pay close attention to, “Where’s my Androgyne?” the collaborative story she wrote with Owen Kaelin, editor of the excellent web journal, “Gone Lawn,” as it’s a keeper.