Christina Milletti’s stories are unsettles and transient, fables on the go. They may have nowhere to be, but they’re in a hurry to get there. How she ever managed to corral these rootless tales into The Religious and Other Fictions is a mystery for the ages.
The opening story is a traveling salesman’s myth, “Retrofit”, a story told not by but about a strange lightbulb salesman whose head grows in the telling. He wanders around without ever being seen twice, perhaps to “Where Noone Is Now,” the location of a vanished sister who may or may not have ever existed. The transience of the mail leads a woman to a world of imagined delights and magic doors, and lets a man open a strange door to the underworld and his own unconscious. Even names travel, moving between women and musicians with easy facility and glad harmony.
Not all the transitions are accomplished with such ease, or such happy results. The man who survives “Amelia Earhart’s Last Appearance” watches helplessly as the women in his life explode, vanish or fade into thin air. And the title story, “The Religious,” takes fact and fantasy along a winding and confusing road with results unsatisfying even for their traveling narrator.
But the journey is the joy, as both Noone and Amelia Earhart might have testified, and Christina Milletti is rather more skilled than the hapless travel guide in “The Religious” at making the travel experience a pleasant one. These are stories going nowhere in a hurry but making good time, allowing readers to find what they can along the way. It’s an odd sort of literary generosity and makes for a good way to pass the time while waiting for the next destination to come along.