Hayden's Ferry Review


Reviewpoints #2 Issue 46: Ari Sen on Clare Beams

Continuing our new blog series Reviewpoints, Fiction Editor Ari Sen tells us why he decided on "We Show What We Have Learned" by Clare Beams for HFR. Clare talks about the genesis of the story in our first Reviewpoints post here.

When we receive a story at HFR, it usually goes through a series of steps before the rejection or acceptance emails/ letters are finally sent out. Associate editors read batches first. The submissions they pick out as promising are then sent to the prose editors, who read them all, rank them, and wait till every story is read twice or thrice till decisions are finally made.

When we received Clare Beams’ story, "We Show What We Have Learned," it came with a note saying we simply had to read the story immediately. Because it was short, and because I am lazy, it was the first one I read in the pile. Ten minutes later I gave it to Brian—the other prose editor. Twenty minutes after having first received the story, I was emailing Clare with news of our acceptance.

It is not just that the story is weird in a way that is refreshing in literary fiction. It’s not weird for the sake of it—it’s weird because it has to be. It’s weird because in 5 short pages it has to be surreal and disturbing and heart-rending at the same time. It’s weird because it’s so goddamn well-written, because underneath the situation Clare explores is a beating, pulsing heart that is the reason we read, because as writers we know how hard it is to make something appear so easily written. It’s weird because we follow its story—funny, strange, outrageous—all the way until the end where we pause a moment, knowing what will happen, and then it doesn’t. What happens is better. Good fiction surprises us and makes us think when we have finished reading it. Clare’s fiction surprised us and made us think while we were reading it. And it kept surprising us. I’ve read the story a few times since deciding we wanted to publish it. It gets better every time. It’s not a weird story. It’s just a good story. That happens to be weird. Which is why we love it.

Click here to read "We Show What We Have Learned" as part of our online content for Issue #46. To make sure you don't miss another story like it, click here to subscribe. Join us next week as Poetry Editor Rose Swartz and poet J.D. Schraffenberger discuss his poem "I Memorized a List."