This week’s story is a Neil Gaiman story, essentially, and self-consciously so.
Part of the point of this project is to expand my range a little, and one way to break out of my own formulas is to borrow someone else’s. Something that Neil does brilliantly is to reinterpret traditional stories and fairy tales—things like “Snow, Glass, Apples,” or The Sleeper and the Spindle. That’s something that I haven’t done much at all (not in fiction, anyway; I have written a bunch of songs that riff on folk themes), and I thought it might be a worthwhile exercise to break down the formula and reverse-engineer it. I’d been browsing through Gabriel’s Palace, an anthology of Jewish mystical tales collected and retold by Howard Schwartz, and I came across “The Angel’s Daughter,” a folk story originally told in the Central Asian region of Bukhara (now part of Uzbekistan), which lent itself to the treatment. That it was deep-cut Judaica only made it more Gaimanesque, which amused me.
I’ve also been consciously trying for more gender parity in my writing, trying to write more women characters, and to do so with more empathy and imagination. Along with Gabriel’s Palace, I’d been reading a lot of feminist commentary about negotiating the impossible standards and demands that patriarchy imposes on women, and Shulem Deen’s funny, rueful essays about living—and leaving—his Hasidic faith. As all of these things filtered into the story, it became (I think) something more than a goof or a pastiche. It made me angry as I wrote it, and it made me sad.
I still haven’t found a title that I’m entirely happy with, but in this draft it’s called “Bride of Quiet.” It will be another long one, about 5,000 words, and it will run in this space at noon EDT tomorrow.