Issue #139: The Omega Point or Happy Birthday Baby

This past May, One Story hosted our first fundraiser, where visual artists created original work based on short stories from the magazine. In our new issue, “The Omega Point or Happy Birthday Baby,” the reverse has happened–a writer has written a short story based on a collection of art. Personally, I love to see different mediums riffing off each other this way, especially when the result is so fantastic. And so now fellow readers, let’s all step back and roll out the red carpet and welcome A.M. Homes to the pages of One Story.

When I was first introduced to A.M. Homes’s work, I was a bookseller in Massachusetts, and a friend pressed a copy of her collection, The Saftey of Objects in my hands. I had never read a writer who broke so many rules so well, and I tore through her other books: Jack, In A Country of Mothers, and The End of Alice. Later, I waited for her new books to be released with great anticipation: Music for Torching, Things You Should Know, This Book Will Save Your Life, and her memoir The Mistress’s Daughter. She is hands-down one of my favorite authors.

A.M. Homes is a legend in the literary arena, but she has also made a name for herself in the art world, collaborating with artists to produce books and writing introductions to gallery catalogs. “The Omega Point or Happy Birthday Baby” was inspired by the work of Petah Coyne, published in conjunction with Coyne’s new exhibition at Mass Moca in North Adams, MA titled Everything That Rises Must Converge.  

Petah Coyne Untitled # 1240 (Black Cloud)

It is clear from the title that Coyne was inspired by the work of famed short story writer Flannery O’Connor. And here is where all things began to fall into place for me, because I’ve always associated A.M. Homes’s work with O’Connor–they are both masters at combining violence with spirtuality, while at the same time keeping their stories grounded in character–real, ordinary people having an extraordinary moment in their lives.

And that brings us to our new issue, “The Omega Point or Happy Birthday Baby,” where Homes quickly draws us into a family circle of Mary Grace Mahon, her son Paul, her daughter Eliza  and her granddaughter Ruby.  Mary Grace has been keeping a secret about their shared heritage, and through a variety of events involving Lue Gim Gong and Peking Man, the truth comes out, and things that rise do, in fact, converge.

For the first time One Story has included an author’s note at the end of the issue, to explain the connection of Petah Coyne, Flannery O’Connor, and some of the historical facts involved with this story. I hope that you will also read our Q&A with A.M. Homes about how she wrote the story, and also go to see Petah Coyne’s exhibit at Mass Moca. The Omega Point is a term coined by Jesuit priest (& philospher) Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, used to describe a maximum level of complexity and consciousness that the universe seems to be evolving towards. The idea is in some ways the opposite of the big bang theory, which has all life developing as it moves away from that one spark. In the Omega point, all life is moving towards something, and this moving forward is dependent on interconnectedness. I’m no philospher, or even a scientist, but I do like the idea of trying to connect, and I can’t help but feel that even a tiny effort like reading a short story can potentially, even if only for a moment, bring us closer together.

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