xTx is a writer living in Southern California. She says nothing at notimetosayit.com.
After reading Normally Special, if I knew xTx’s legal name, I’d file a restraining order. Maybe she’s Aileen Wuornos. Maybe she’s a wiccan living under A.M. Homes’s bed. I don’t know, she freaks me the hell out.
Though sometimes brutal, sometimes devastating, I couldn’t look away. Especially not from the skill. Not from the beauty. Not from the truth. xTx is a voice unlike any other I know.
Understand that this is bone goodness wrapped in massacres of lovely, & if I wasn’t before, I am now an official fan of xTx.
xTx’s stories embody the terrors, wounds and deep emotions that tremor through our bodies as we walk around in our daily lives, pretending everything is alright. Nothing is alright of course, but xTx turning our hidden selves into meaningful stories helps a whole hell of a lot.
Some books are a surprise. Some books come at you like a bullet out of nowhere striking through some core part of your brain where you store vital information. Vital feelings. Normally Special by xTx is one such case. For whatever reason it took me a while to get sucked into the universe of xTx. This was before Normally Special. This was before I bought Normally Special at AWP back in February. Before I read the whole book on the flight home to Oregon from D.C. And definitely before I spent weeks with Normally Special by my side when I was up late writing, as if it were a companion of sorts.
xTx has a way of twisting emotions to their breaking point, bending the reader to her will as she does so. And I was prepared for none of this. I don’t know why. Maybe because I’m inclined to be dubious to hype. Maybe because in so few instances is the hype deserved. But it’s not like I hadn’t read xTx’s work. I had. And it was good. But the difference is between seeing good paintings by an artist and then suddenly seeing them pull a Van Gogh out for you. Yes, Normally Special is a masterpiece, but the beauty of it is that its a masterpiece that only hints at the possibility, the potential, held in xTx’s words.
More than anything I would direct everyone who loves good writing, who loves a great short story, to read “The Mill Pond.” For my money it is one of the best short stories in the last year. At least. She breaks your heart, right from the opening line: “All of my tank tops are striped the wrong way for a girl my size.” Stories like “The Mill Pond” remind me in the best way of some of my favorite writers, and some of the best writers out there today, such as Bonnie Jo Campbell, whose short stories share the same devastation as “The Mill Pond.
I constantly find myself championing short stories to non-writers, who so often tell me that if they read at all that they prefer novels. Even with my my wife I have to sell the short story as a form. But it is because of writers like xTx that I love the short story so passionately. When I fell in love with writing it was due to Hemingway. When I have fallen back in love with writing continuously over the years it has been due to the short stories of people like Campbell, or Pete Fromm, Jack Driscoll, Raymond Carver, Flannery O’Connor. So many writers who exercise the greatest skill of precision a writer can, by encapsulating something meaningful into so few words. And xTx does that. And if there’s one thing I took away from Normally Special it is that xTx has the power within her to be a Bonnie Jo Campbell or even a Flannery O’Connor. The readers are just waiting for the rest of her words to show up. And I know they are coming. Until then read Normally Special again and again. Hold it close and feel what it’s trying to tell you.