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.
When I first started getting to know xTx, I thought she was a nun. There had to be a powerful reason why she wouldn’t put her name to her writing. Service to God seemed like a reasonable explanation.
xTx is not a nun.
I don’t care who xTx really is. Her pseudonym is the least interesting thing about her. I might, in part, feel this way because I know something about the woman behind the virtual curtain. We’ve spent time together. I know that there is, in fact, no mystery at all. However, even if I didn’t know xTx as a person, the mystery would not be as interesting as her writing.
When I decided to start a small press, I had a list of writers I wanted to work with. At the top of that list, there was one name — xTx — not because we’re friends (she published two books before working with THP and will publish countless books long after working with THP) but because her writing is fierce and beautiful, sometimes haunting or horrifying but always, always endlessly interesting and engaging. Her writing exemplifies the aesthetic I wanted to cultivate. Whatever book we worked on would be a book we could always be proud of.
At times, it seems like people forget xTx is a writer. Names are important until they aren’t. With a collection like Normally Special, you know everything you need to know about the woman and the writer because she bleeds on every page and reveals, perhaps, the truest parts of herself.
The power of this collection is that xTx will break your heart while holding it gently. Every single story in this book is one I love and continue to read and re-read. I could pick each and every one of the twenty-three stories that make up Normally Special as my favorite because they are all that strong, that moving, that powerful.
Normally Special is the kind of book that includes, “She Who Subjected the Sun,” a story about a dystopic near future where women are subjected to a stringent set of rules, bought and sold as chattel, trained to please masters. What makes this story so chilling is that we don’t really know how and why such a circumstance has come to pass. We don’t see what the women are subjected to as much as we are given room to imagine. That freedom to imagine the unseen horrors is probably the most disturbing element of this story — what happens to the women is only as dark and disturbing as our minds will allow. The potential is terrifying.
Many of the stories in Normally Special are like that — we know terrible things are happening or have happened, but these terrible things are often alluded to. Rarely are they explicitly detailed. We are given the responsibility of pulling back the curtain to see what it hides. Again, the horror is only as pronounced as we allow.
There are all kinds of freedom in this book — the freedom to imagine what we are not explicitly told, the freedom to place ourselves in these darker lives of others, and most of all, there is the freedom of the words in these stories about desperate mothers and tormented girls and daring daughters. Ultimately, that is why I don’t give a good goddamn who xTx is — the mystery of the woman behind the pseudonym is a small price to pay for the freedom she revels in through her writing.
Over the coming weeks, you’ll hear from other writers who are equally taken with Normally Special, the woman, the writer, those three little letters, XTX.