Author looks through veils of lies at ABR reading series

Sept. 19, 2011 at 4:19 a.m.

Christina Milletti plans to bring something old and something new to the American Book Review reading series - and, as it goes in the author's writing style, something a little untrue, too.

Milletti said she anticipates reading from her 2006 collection of short stories, "The Religious and Other Fictions," as well as her just-finished novel, "Choke Box," at the University of Houston-Victoria on Thursday.

Both works make an effort at capturing Milletti's fascination for what she calls the everyday fibs people tell and "why we believe the stories we tell each other, why we believe the world is as it seems to be."

"The characters actually perceive things that should be normal, but they perceive them in a wholly anormal sort of way, and it's not often apparent at first," she said of some of her writings.

For example, in "The Religious and Other Fictions," Milletti takes readers on the journeys of a taxi driver who is convinced his wife is having an affair; of a woman whose sister has died in a foreign land; and of a young boy who sees his mother vanish at the kitchen sink.

"The stories ask the reader to be an active participant in doubting what they're hearing from the narrators of the stories instead of the realities." Milletti said it forces the reader to confront "the ways in which we, in fact, do the same thing."

"Choke Box," also begs its readers to sort through a perception presented as fact when a wife writes a "counter-memoir" to a memoir her husband is writing.

As the book progresses, Milletti said the reader grapples with the wife likely being a little crazy but also perhaps victimized.

"It's the complication of real and (unreal) that sets the book on its head," she said.

That's a theme Milletti said captivates her in her everyday life.

"In any encounter with anyone you know on a daily basis - at the grocery store, at the bank - we're all performing ... as someone who slept well the night before, as a mother who made sure the kids' homework was done ... as someone who's actually paid their bills," she said.

The little lies are spurred in no small part by society and its expectations, Milletti added.

"I'm interested in the ways that have spun out of control to a certain extent and what happens when those little fibs affect us," she said. "I'm interested in how we trip up and what we do when we pick ourselves up."

Milletti is an English professor at the University of Buffalo and her fiction has appeared in journals and anthologies, such as "The Alaska Review," "The Chicago Review," and "The Greensboro Review," "Harcourt's Best New American Voices" and "Scribner's Best of the Fiction Workshops."



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