We’re excited about our new issue, due out in January (a bit behind schedule, but we promise it’s worth the wait). We think you should be, too. To help you achieve maximum anticipatory excitement, Assistant Editor Becky Adnot-Haynes wrote a brief teaser for one of our forthcoming stories, Kate Finlinson’s “The Jesus Party.”
Becky Adnot-Haynes: It’s only been two weeks since I began work as one of CR’s new assistant editors, but I’ve already had a bunch of great experiences on the job. Some things I’ve done so far:
- Directed a wayward freshman to the correct building on campus after he inquired as to how to reach the fifth floor of our three-stories-plus-a-basement building.
- Managed, after a modest struggle, to open a submission envelope mummified with tape. Submitters, we know that you don’t want your manuscript to get lost in the mail, but if you want us to read it, we must be able to open the envelope.
- Learned that fiction editor Michael Griffith has not, contrary to popular opinion, begun gelling his hair—he just sometimes gets caught in the rain.
I’ve also read some excellent fiction and poetry. I’m particularly taken with Kate Finlinson’s short story “The Jesus Party,” in which the unnamed narrator who has been recently hired as a costumed performer for theme parties—he’s been a pirate, a ninja, and a magician, he tells us—is asked to assume the most important identity of them all: the Holy One himself, Jesus Christ.
The story is a statement on the middle class’s commodification of Jesus Christ. Even though Mrs. Lowe, perfectly coiffed wife and mother, admits that she doesn’t actually believe in God, she seems unbothered by the prospect of presenting him as light entertainment for her five-year-old daughter and her friends. Moreover, she is pleased with the authenticity of the narrator’s beard, and even furnishes him with specific God-like behaviors to perform, entreating him to “speak softly” and “kneel most of the time.” Fittingly, she provides him with bags of Swedish Fish to pass out as treats among the party guests. There’s no better time to believe in Jesus, the narrator tells us wryly, than when you’re a kid—when he can fit in with the cast of characters you see on television and on the fronts of cereal boxes.
And yet I get the impression that performing Jesus Christ isn’t only about a paycheck for the narrator; that he doesn’t quite believe in his own self-effacing disdain. It’s about living during a time, postcollege and precareer, when “you’re convinced you’re not yet really you.” It’s about the loves he has and hasn’t had, ghosts of women who hang around the pages of the story. And it’s about his own salvation—or lack thereof. “I was born into godlessness,” he tells us, “and nothing . . . could wrangle me away from this position. When I was a kid my mom explained it to me. ‘Some families believe in God,’ she said. ‘But ours doesn’t.’ I didn’t think about it much beyond that.” Until the birthday girl, Stella Lowe, asks him if the world is coming to an end. We get the impression that he, too, would like to hear someone’s answer to her question.