A Litany in Time of Plague by K. D. MillerA Litany in Time of Plague by K. D. Miller

A Litany in Time of Plague

byK. D. Miller


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A Litany in Time of Plague is K.D. Miller's first collection of short fiction. The `plague' of the title story is a reference not only to AIDS but to its ironic companion, loneliness.

Miller's child characters are like little aliens dropped into a world that wavers from incomprehensible to bewildering, and yet, there is a knowing in them, an attunement to the `voice under the voice' that is disquieting. In `This Is Important' in Litany in Time of Plague, Arley is being questioned by her mother and a policeman about the man who followed her home from Brownies in his car. As she listens to them, she remembers the man `who came out of the dark. He was like a piece of the dark' and, unlike the policeman and her mother, talked to her `in his real voice,' and treated her with respect and courtesy. `Nobody ever talked to me like that before.... It was harder to say no thank you that time.' The dark stranger comes to represent the answer to all the mysteries the grownups withhold from her, the knowledge of good and evil, like the serpent in the Garden of Eden. Only when she hears through to the need and fear beneath his voice, does she turn away.

Each of the characters in the ten linked stories comes to the end of his or her spiritual rope. Kelly attends a Requiem Mass where she adds her and her ex-husband's names to a list of the dead. Arley pursues a dangerous fantasy down one dark alley after another. Raymond learns that his inability to love is exactly matched by his need to do just that.

K.D. Miller's stories and essays have appeared in numerous magazines and have been nominated for the Journey Prize and the National Magazine Award for fiction (1997). In 1999 she was a runner-up in the PRISM international short fiction contest. Two collections of her stories have been published -- A Litany in Time of Plague (PQL 1994),...
Title:A Litany in Time of PlagueFormat:PaperbackDimensions:160 pages, 8.74 × 5.54 × 0.49 inPublisher:Porcupine's Quill

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0889841454

ISBN - 13:9780889841451

Appropriate for ages: 11 - 14

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From the Author

Pumpkins and ClogsMy writing group kept expecting me to quit. `I can't figure out why you don't quit,' one of them actually said. Not that they were pushing me out. It was just tradition -- stay with the group until you get a book contract, then quit. We had lost a few members over the years that way. So now that A Litany In Time of Plague was going to be published, why was I still hanging around?Looking back over the diary I kept during that pre-publication period, I suspect inertia had a lot to do with it. Life tends, astonishingly, to go on. Less than a month after recording The News (`I have a book coming out, a book coming out, a book coming out!') I was griping and glooming about all the usual garbage: `I hate the summer. Everyone's away. I wander the stores, buy things I don't need, read too many Ruth Rendells one after another, see too many movies, eat too much and gain weight. At the moment, I'm fat, lonely, piggishly behind in my housework, dubious in my faith and semi-blocked as a writer.'A book contract, I was learning, waves no wands and solves no problems. The transformation is less in ourselves than in the way others perceive us. They see a coach and glass slippers; we know it's all still pumpkin and clogs.My slim collection had been accepted by The Porcupine's Quill on condition that I beef it up with at least three more stories. Fiction on demand, in other words. Fiction to deadline. And the blank page every bit as blank as ever. `I have four hugely begun stories piled on my desk,' I moaned in those early days. `I have a computer to buy; ... I may or may not be on the Journey Prize shortlist; I may or may not win the Journey Prize; I may or may not ever have a fresh idea in my head again instead of old stuff revised or new stuff that turns out to be a dead end.' Then, a week later, a little bit of serenity : `I've learned something, for about the fiftieth time. The joy of writing is in the writing itself, not in contracts or prizes or anything else that depends on others' approval.'The trouble with real-life epiphanies, though, as opposed to the ones that happen in the movies, is that there's no finality, no swell of music and roll of credits. According to my diary, it was during this pre-publication period that I deliberately, and with eerie calm, threw my mug at a filing cabinet at work. I even warned everybody beforehand. Then, bam! The mug remained intact, but the metal file drawer still bears a dent. And I somehow doubt that the `joy of writing' was the immediate cause.On Christmas Day, 1993, with months still to go and stories yet to finish before I would hold that first book in my hand, I wrote: `The head is emerging. What a strange, wonderful, painful, sad, happy time this has been. I've been selfish, virtually a recluse, turning down invitations. Well, I suspect most birthing mothers are not exactly party girls. Christmas Eve Mass last night. Somehow, through all the clutter and caterwauling of the family service, something comes through, in the shape of the wafer in the mouth, the tang of the wine.'That tang comes and goes, however, in art as much as in religion. On January 31, 1994, I wrote, `My book is finished. A Litany in Time of Plague goes in the mail to [editor John Metcalf tonight or tomorrow. I feel safely delivered, grateful and a little sad.' Then, a few weeks later, for reasons that entirely escape me now, I was quoting from Psalm 88 : `You have plunged me into the lowest abyss; into the darkest regions of the depths.... You have removed my friends from me and made me utterly loathsome to them. I am shut in with no escape; my eyes are dim with anguish.'What the hell was that about? Seasonal Affective Disorder? PMS? I really hadn't expected the bustle and sudden exposure of publication, inimical as it is to the quiet furtiveness of writing, to get to me. My background and training are in the theatre. Stage productions are born of a mix of hysterics and rage; and there is no pressure like an audience arriving at eight. So I had thought that I would be totally unaffected by the business end of producing a book. But my diary entries for the two months leading up to the launch are a study in ambivalence:September 16, 1994: `I have been through galleys and vandykes of Litany. ... I'm to read in Ottawa at the National Library on October 27 and at the Rivoli in Toronto on November 2.' October 4: `A long period of not writing creatively. Just reading, organizing, preparing for the launch. I've booked my train tickets and hotel, and feel terribly grown up.' October 9: `The thing to do is work. Play writer. Like in the old days. Write for the sake of writing. Write the way you did before you had no hope of publication. I've got to get it back. I've got to drop all this silly s

Editorial Reviews

`... I found myself laughing frequently.... Miller takes the right turns and sustains her narratives without tricks or complications ... if K.D. Miller can evoke such feelings in a first collection, I am certainly looking forward to her second.'