: Origins: Boy Into Panther and Other Stories :

by Margaret Benbow

The characters and themes of my stories find me by running me down.  I don't consciously choose them. They show up.  I see a face or hear a voice, at first dimly, then over months or years they become clear. The day arrives when they say, "Give me life, or else."
 
This is a mysterious process which I don't understand. I often say to a character, "Why you?" He or she grins at me, fiercely or gently in response to their nature, and says, "You know it has to be me, and I will do what I must do. I have to batter this man now, I have to binge on my stepmother's wine, feed stew to that religious fanatic, I have to run for my life from the most seductive person I know. Oh, by the way, the guy is a psychopath,and he's going to act like one."
  
They often have hard tasks, as in a fairy tale. "I have to paint this picture, and only my own blood gives the right red. I have to sew a bride's dress in one day for a demanding and alluring stranger. I have to fight through an ice storm to take food to my pauper friend who's mentally ill. He has to carry eight rosaries on his body and use them every day. My mother has to plot the murder of someone who threatens her child."
 
And they do have to. What my characters have in common, most often, is that they're persistent to the point of being obsessed. There is something they want. Because they're capable of a full-blooded response to their world, they're not going to give it up. My purpose is to bring the reader along on their struggles, to know what drives them, to become invested (or better yet, fascinated) by their task,and to do them justice."
 
Read Benbow's previous essay about the development of "Joe Szabo and the Gypsy Bride."
 

2017 NOVEMBER

New Rivers Press published Antioch Review contributor Margaret Benbow's  Boy Into Panther and Other Stories.  Chad Simpson, author of Tell Everyone I Said Hi said in his review "It's been a long time since I read a collection that crackled with such intelligence and wit. In Benbow's talented hands, each of these stories--often borne of the mundane, the everyday--transforms into something mythic, not quite of this world.  Boy Into Panther is a remarkable work of fiction." 

To date, Benbow's works published in the Antioch Review include "Simeon and Gulden" (Winter 2018),  "Simeon and Art Night" (Spring 2017), "Simeon and the Rich Man" (Fall 2015),  "Joe Szabo and the Gypsy Bride" (Winter 2014), "Simeon Prophet and Johanna" (Spring 2013), "In the Midnight Hour" (Fall 1985), "Pizzeria" and "Woman Carrying Twins" (Summer 1979).

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