Tatto Bird is a short story collection comprised of eleven stories. The title story received an Honorable Mention (second prize) in the H.E. Francis Short Story Competition held by the Ruth Hindman Foundation. It was also twice nominated for a Pushcart Prize.
Brenda gives an overview of the book:
"Hmm. I was right then. That photo gave me a sense of foreboding, of something lurking just outside the range of vision. You should have put it in the exhibit. Shown the development. Things that have been suppressed always interest me. But if it's an allegory, who's the poisoner?"
"I suppose it's society destroying the artist. She often talked about that."
"Was your grandma an artist?"
"No," now it was my turn to laugh, "not even an oppressed communist. She was an afghan knitter. A shut-in, stuck in a hotel apartment, paralyzed for the last fifty years of her life."
"That must have been difficult for your mother."
As he was asking me about my grandmother, I suddenly understood that the poisoner in the early photograph wasn't society killing the artist, it was Mother killing her own mother. The thought made my brain shut down. Stuff of nightmares.
"I suppose it was difficult," I said. "But I don't think it matters. I've always been uncomfortable with critics who delve into the personal lives of artists. It doesn't seem important to know this kind of thing. The secret underside." Listening to myself I grimaced with discomfort. What a phoney I was being. Or worse, a coward. I was deeply curious about people's secrets. How did Picasso feel when he introduced his mentally unstable wife to his mistress? "If mother had wanted people to know," I went on carefully, "she would have been more explicit. What interested her was transcendent meaning."
"But it would make her more human to know more about the personal. Her personality seems so elusive. And beautiful as these things are" -- he gestured at the show catalogue -- "there is something missing."
He had a lovely mouth, I thought looking at him, and maybe he was right. Maybe there was a value to revealing some intimate details about Mother's life. But do people really want to know about her tantrums? Do I really want them to know how petty she could be? Well, yes, I think so. Let them see a little of what life was like with her. Exemplary daughter? More like an indentured slave.
Brenda Webster was born in New York City, educated at Swarthmore College, Columbia University, and University of California, Berkeley, where she earned her Ph.D. She is a freelance writer, critic, and translater who splits her time between Berkeley and Rome, and she is the...