Excerpt

The Core of the Sun

Johanna Sinisalo, Trans. Lola Rogers

January 21, 2016 
The following is from Johanna Sinisalo's novel, The Core of the Sun. Sinisalo, born in 1958 in Sodankylä, writes novels in the "Finnish Weird" style, a style that unites Finnish writers who have turned down the realistic tradition. Her debut novel Not Before Sundown was awarded the Finlandia Literature Prize. Sinisalo’s books have been translated into about 20 languages.

MODERN DICTIONARY ENTRY

eloi — A popular unofficial vernacular word, first entering the language in the 1940s, for what is now properly called a femiwoman. Refers to the sub-race of females who are active on the reproductive market and are distinguished by their dedication to the overall advancement of the male sex. The word has its roots in the works of H. G. Wells, an author who predicted that humanity would be evolutionarily divided into distinct sub-races, some dedicated to serving the social structure and others meant to enjoy those services. Plural: elois. Examples: “A typical eloi has light hair and a round head.” “Elois can legally reproduce.”

MODERN DICTIONARY ENTRY

masco — A popular unofficial vernacular word for the majority of males. Used to distinguish these men from so-called minus men, a minority of men who, because of their limitations (such as chronic illness or serious physical deficiencies), are designated as outside the mating market.

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* * * *

“THE TRAINING OF ELOIS”

From An Eloi in the House:
Advice for a Harmonious Family Life
National Publishing (2008)

When you’ve moved in under the same roof with an eloi, it is good to acquaint yourself with an eloi’s way of thinking in order to establish rules and help her adjust to them.

You have to learn to appreciate your spouse just as she is, a creature of instinct, driven by hormones. Repetition, rewards, and reinforcement are the cornerstones of an eloi’s understanding. In token of her gratitude, your wife will be obedient, loyal, and willing to give unceasing love and devotion.

The key to training an eloi to be a wife is to be methodical, consistent, clear, and patient.

Obedience should be a natural characteristic of an eloi. There may, however, be tremendous variation in inherited characteristics from one individual to the next.

An eloi can’t always tell right from wrong; she bases her behavior on associations and whims. This means at its simplest that if a behavior has pleasant consequences, she will repeat that behavior. If, on the other hand, a behavior produces unpleasant consequences, she will avoid it. That is why the use of mere punishments is not the best method of training an eloi; it’s also important to reward and reinforce desirable behaviors.

Rewards for good behavior should also be adapted to the case at hand. If an eloi enjoys good food, it is wise to reward her with her favorite treats—in moderate amounts, of course. If an eloi responds positively to praise, then she should be complimented. Physical affection can also be used as a reward. Most elois like to have their hair stroked, have their rear ends patted, and be given a kiss not intended as a prelude to sex. Her smile will tell you when you’re on the right track. For especially good behavior you might buy her flowers, jewelry, clothing, etc., but such rewards must be used sparingly in order to be effective.

Training an eloi is easiest when she is motivated. She will appreciate a reward of a food treat the most when she is a bit hungry or hasn’t had a sweet or a pastry for a long time. Rewards of praise and attention also work best when it’s been some time since she received any.

Undesirable behaviors can also be the cause for limiting access to rewards. This generally works better than punishment, but should negative feedback be needed, a firm reprimand or small physical reminder will usually suffice.

Timing is of the essence. Give her a command, wait for her to react, and if she does what is desired, reward her immediately. If a reward is not immediately provided she may not connect the positive feedback with the behavior. Consistency is also important. Always use the same brief commands.

Train the eloi to be obedient in varying environments and give her plenty of verbal feedback. An eloi will soon learn to recognize the tone of voice of even neutral statements. If negative verbal comments don’t work, drawing her attention elsewhere is often effective (for example, in a situation where she wants you to buy her something in a store).

Make sure that your wife’s daily routine has sufficient activity so that the boredom of idleness doesn’t lead to dysfunctional behaviors.

* * * *

VANNA/VERA

November 2016

They come one at a time, each one bringing a bunch of flowers or a porcelain knickknack or a package of berry sweets or a hair doodad she found at the store that “looked like me.” They elbow their way through the door, redolent with perfume and hair spray and creams, their ultrahigh heels clomping, their mouths dewy and glistening, their eyelashes gooey with mascara, their breasts molded into high, shelflike mounds that nearly touch their chins. They screech and giggle, whisper, and kiss each other’s spackled cheeks.

They lisp out soft S’s and, as if in compensation, crow words like “fantastic” and “awful” and “heavens” in a screeching falsetto. Their names are Hanna, Janna, Sanna, and Leanna, and every one of them wishes in her heart of hearts to be my bridesmaid.

It’s a girls’ night. I’m serving sweet, fizzy, low-calorie fruit drinks and bite-size sandwiches and heart-shaped apple jam cookies I baked myself, each one with a few slivers of ridicu- lously expensive dark chocolate on top. The dark chocolate is considered healthy, so you can get it at the pharmacy without a prescription, but the price puts quite a dent in an eloi’s state mating market subsidy.

The girls flock around a table decked with rose-colored napkins, flowered dishes, and colorful tumblers and admire the bows I used to tie the seat cushions to the legs of the kitchen chairs. They peek into the bedroom and just love my pink bedspread, and they are gratifyingly scandalized at my extravagant use of chocolate.

Hanna, Janna, Sanna, and Leanna purse their lips and open their painted eyes wide as they grill me about my coming nuptials.

“How did he propose?”

“It was so romantic. He asked how many years of home economics I took, and I told him two.”

“Well, you nearly did! You’ve been in school more than a year.”

“Food preparation, household budget, home hygiene, child care, body maintenance, and, of course, sexual adaptability courses.”

“Did you take any electives?”

“Sewing and entertaining. And interior decorating. When I told Jare that, he said pretty soon I’ll be a handy housewife.”

Everyone sighs. What a wonderful masco.

“Well, then you had to know what was coming!”

“Then he said he thought I was really pretty, and that other mascos probly thought so, too. ’Cause I’ve given a wink or two to some of his friends, you know.”

“Of course you did! That’s the smart thing to do.”

“Then he said, ‘I ought to get a jump on the others before somebody beats me to it,’ and I just looked down at the ground and didn’t say anything. And then he was like, ‘Vanna, let’s get married.’”

“Oooooh!”

“Oh, Vanna, weren’t you excited?”

“Give us the scoop on your dress! Strapless? Or maybe a heart-shaped neckline? Everybody says they’re all the rage right now!”

“What kind of white’ll it be? Snow white or cream?”

“Are you gonna have a full veil?”

I squirm as if I’m feeling self-conscious, all the while sighing and trying to look like I’m drinking up all this milk and honey. “I don’t know. I might wear my debutante gown, since it’s long and white. I’m sure some of you remember it from the dance. Sort of silver-white.”

“Your debutante gown? Nobody gets married in their debutante gown!”

“Well . . . see, it’s sort of a . . . secret engagement.”

The girls emit a deep collective sigh of expectation. They’re about to hear something with the taint of scandal or the bloom of romance, and either possibility produces a delicious itch to hear more. I pause dramatically.

“See, Jare has this ex who went pretty crazy when he called it off. We ’ve decided to do everything on the quiet, nothing elaborate. Otherwise she might get the idea to show up crying and make a scene at the wedding.”

An immediate uproar follows. I’m not even sure which painted mouth is hurling which question. It’s scandal and romance in one package, and it’s irresistible.

“Gosh, that’s horrible!”

“You mean you’re going to have a civil wedding? How awful!”

“Exes are such a pain!”

I bite my lip, tilt my head, and look at them with pleading eyes.

“Girls, girls, girls. You’ve got to all promise me that this’ll be, like, just between us.”

They all nod, every one of them prepared to join this great conspiracy. I lean toward them and lower my voice. “Like nobody can know about this. You’ll all keep quiet about it, right?”

They all swear that they will carry the secret to their graves.

I know that the story will now spread more quickly than the annual flu.

 

From THE CORE OF THE SUN. Used with permission of Grove Press. Copyright © 2016 by Johanna Sinisalo. Translation copyright © 2016 by Lola Rogers.


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