Wild Milk: Stories

  • Review
By – October 22, 2018

Many of the sto­ries in Mark’s Wild Milk exist at the inter­sec­tion of con­tem­po­rary fairy tales and Jew­ish cul­ture. In this col­lec­tion of sur­re­al sto­ries, famil­iar Jew­ish nar­ra­tives — involv­ing rab­bis, ward­ing off the ayin hara, the Holo­caust, and the receiv­ing of the com­mand­ments — are reex­am­ined through unex­pect­ed lens­es: social media, children’s songs, Amer­i­can pol­i­tics, a pre­tend film.

In Tweet,” the nar­ra­tor starts obses­sive­ly fol­low­ing the Rab­bi” on Twit­ter because a lot of my friends are.” This sto­ry func­tions as a mod­ern rework­ing of the Yid­dish folk song Az der Rebbe Zingt,” which sat­i­rizes the Rebbe’s ardent fol­low­ers, while also evok­ing the goat of the Passover song Chad Gadya” and the whale in the Book of Jon­ah: At the com­mu­ni­ty swim­ming pool there is a goat.…The Rab­bi climbs inside. We fol­low him. It is warm. Too warm. Beau­ti­ful Leno­ra is here. She is fol­low­ing the Rab­bi too. We nod to each oth­er. Inside the goat is a tree.” The absur­dism is cut with a somber reflec­tion on gen­der: the women fol­low­ing the rab­bi are strug­gling to be recognized.”

The sto­ry For the Safe­ty of the Coun­try” com­bines a post-apoc­a­lyp­tic plot with the idio­syn­crasies of Jew­ish super­sti­tion, claim­ing that the chap­er­one of the new batch” of U.S. Pres­i­dents is qual­i­fied for the job because she comes from a line of Jew­ish peo­ple who expect the worst: We spit three times, we keep salt in our pock­ets, we wear tiny hands against our chests, we throw no baby show­ers…” In My Broth­er Gary Made A Movie & This Is What Hap­pened,” the narrator’s broth­er pre­tends to film the fam­i­ly as they lie in a heap, argu­ing. Dur­ing film­ing, Gary’s recita­tion of the Ten Com­mand­ments implies that the pile of bod­ies sym­bol­izes both a mass grave and Mount Sinai.

Marks’s use of Jew­ish cul­ture and con­tem­po­rary fairy tales com­bine into sto­ries that chal­lenge both dis­cours­es. By defy­ing the cul­tur­al bound­aries of Amer­i­can fairy tales, Mark gives us a col­lec­tion that casts both main­stream and minor­i­ty cul­tures in a new, wild light.

Alli­son Pitinii Davis is the author of Line Study of a Motel Clerk (Baobab Press, 2017), a final­ist for the Berru Poet­ry Award and the Ohioana Book Award. 

Discussion Questions