What I’m striving for is authenticity; none of it is real.
– WG Sebald
I mean that the self-referentiality of my novel is a way of exploring how fiction functions in our real lives—for good and for ill—not a way of mocking fiction’s inability to make contact with anything outside of itself. My concern is how we live fictions, how fictions have real effects, become facts in that sense, and how our experience of the world changes depending on its arrangement into one narrative or another.
– Ben Lerner, in conversation with Tao Lin for The Believer
THE SOUTH CIRCULAR celebrates its third birthday with the publication of this, our eleventh issue. I don’t lie or exaggerate when I tell you that at the outset, when all I had was an idea and convictions, I could absolutely imagine and not imagine this anniversary ever happening: it would always just be me, we would grow to a staff of twenty-five; the stories would speak for themselves, the stories would win prizes; we’d find an office in an old shop-front in Dublin 8, we’d open a second office in Toronto; we’d always only publish four stories, we’d sometimes publish five; and so on. The narrative that is THE SOUTH CIRCULAR has been moved, by and large, by the writers who have offered their work to us for publication, the very act of which causes them not to imagine a different future, but to live it.
And time and time again, during this year in Toronto, something which has emerged as an unplanned residency of the mind, I imagine multiple and fluid narratives, as I navigate our new home, the consolations of what I have over what I have left behind, the creation of new touchstones. We are bombarded by opportunities here (choosing is the hard part), a place of diversity and equality where, apparently, no one culture prevails, where youth as well as age are relevant to ability, where you are what you say you are and you must leave your beloved idioms at the door. In the space of one day, the narratives alternate along the lines of ‘What’s for ya won’t pass ya’ (our comparable future) and the kind of leanness we might be ill-equipped to endure (because of our past). The fictions, as Ben Lerner says and Sebald alludes, become our facts, our authenticity.
In the spirit of, or as a result of, this change, this new normal, this new fiction of our own making, we bring you five (not four, see?) stories engaged with moments of diversion, in places their characters might rather not be. After Michael Garvey’s captured protagonist’s pen runs out, do you already know what happens in the white space that follows? Christopher Ringrose’s young man rethinks his brief ‘friendship’ with the mysterious Vincent. Vicki Thornton’s child character sees something she can never unsee while Bethany William’s Fi seems to have prepared for her pregnancy since the death of her mother when she was just thirteen. And Siobhán Harte’s care worker will do it all again tomorrow – the same only different. But this is not to divert, either, away from the powerful fictions happening within the actual limits of these little stories; they are familiar and strange and entertaining.
Accompanying her image with text, in the publication in which it first appeared, Laurie Kang said this of 33 Circles: ‘An exercise is repeated an arbitrary thirty-three times over wherein light-sensitive, photographic paper is exposed and torn to make collages and photograms. Circles: various compositions.’ There were several, if not actually thirty-three, images we could have chosen to detail on the cover of this issue of THE SOUTH CIRCULAR. The one you see is the one we wanted you to see. It could have been so different.