Our next issue, “Snuff,” is a part of Jodi Angel’s new collection of stories, You Only Get Letters from Jail, which has just been released by Tin House Books. We’ve been fans of Jodi’s work since we read her first book, The History of Vegas, and are thrilled to welcome her to our pages. I’ll now turn the introducing reins over to Contributing Editor Karen Friedman, who took this story from first to final draft. Be sure to check out Jodi’s Q&A with us on how she wrote this extraordinary tale of brothers, sisters, and growing up.-HT
Here’s a confession: I’ve been sweating this introduction for weeks. In some ways I feel like I’m bringing home a boyfriend, who maybe looks a little tougher than my usual type. You know, visible tattoos and combat boots, the kind of guy that can hold his own in a bar fight. After working with Jodi Angel on Snuff for the past few months, I’d almost forgotten how violent the subject matter can seem to someone who hasn’t read the story yet. I imagine my mother wrinkling up her nose as I explain what a snuff film is and want to reassure her (and all of you) that here the violence is not an end unto itself. There’s so much more making this story great.
Don’t get me wrong. There are graphic passages. Not only related to what the main character, Shane, has seen, but also what he and his sister, Charlotte, are doing on a deserted country road. Jodi’s language is nearly clinical in these spots, with nothing in excess, nothing gratuitous. By the cadence and rhythm of her sentences, she compels the reader forward, even if we fear things will end badly. More than her flawless technique, however, is the way Jodi’s portrayal of this brother and sister obscures the violence, and brings the entire piece to a different level.
We root for Shane and Charlotte as they struggle with secrets that are never quite revealed to one another. They accept what is still unknown in each other because there is no other choice. The strength of their bond in all its messiness is what initially drew me to Snuff and is what keeps me engaged every time I reread it. Shane and Charlotte are the heart of this story, and I hope you love being with them as much as I have.
For more on how Jodi crafted this story, check out our Q&A.