This Wicked Tongue: Stories by Elise Levine


I’d walk a few steps and the haze would lift, as if I’d squeezed my last tears and could get on with things.

I had to settle myself in a quiet place, undisturbed to dig into these stories. The first tale in the collection Money’s Honey had me riveted because of the language, the emotional impact. “Fat girl, some call me. Hey there, fat slut. Like I’m there just to get a load of them.” In the span of a few pages, she will figure out just what she has to do, while going through the memory of who she has left behind, of the many hands that have touched her, can she abandon her wild ways and go home again, and maybe what she carries will make it all worthwhile? The stories are more about what is going on inside each character’s mind because the wicked internal language we have is what drives our own wicked worlds. Whether a narrator is ministering the dying as a divinity school candidate while failing to comfort the living or a cop searching for their unhappy wife in a cave, as his claustrophobia increases, suffocating as much as marriage the writing pulls us in. Are we okay? We’re not okay.

In The Association we’re inside young Martin’s head and privy to his observations about his uptight mother and the failings, ‘lapses’ he collects about his father. A bright kid who ‘needs to get out of his big head’ according to his dad, living between his newly divorced parents, mother wanting too much from his 11-year-old self and finding his new voice, one that upsets the balance, but so what- he is enjoying this snide self. Sometimes when I read from a child’s perspective that is spot on about the adults, I remember what it was like to feel forced to be the audience to adult antics, and how good anger felt when you let loose.

Levine’s stories include one based in c. AD 1372, language of the past, a journey through grief, the one sealed off in the cell for those seeking counsel, a spiritual practice long gone, “our words a poor magic mashed to this world.” 

Difficult relationships, disheveled selves, past, present, shifting timelines- an engaging lyrical collection.

Publication Date: June 25, 2019


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