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THE LIVES OF ATOMS · LEE OKAN
THE LIVES OF ATOMS · LEE OKAN

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In an ambitious first book Lee Okan draws a daring parallel between the life of the universe and our own lives and loves. Here is a remarkable weaving of metaphysics and physics, in dreamlike writing as much poetry as prose. Here is a fiction aware of its construction – and willing to let us witness its sequences and discoveries. — Danielle Legros Georges, Poet Laureate, City of Boston

Read excerpts

“Tell me a story,” she said. The scientist’s wife turned her face towards his. They lay in bed in the darkness as car lights flickered off their walls. The sudden roar of a commuter train rushed below their window. When its clamor dissolved into the night, the tremor of the rails quieting, they folded in together against the tumult outside their windows, their world, and the scientist smelled the sweet breath of his wife as she repeated, “Tell me a story.”

“What kind of story?” Aslan asked her, kissing her hairline. Her face was in the well of his chest, a hand draped over his side. She was his beauty, she was his. He kissed her hairline again as she paused below his chin. Manu exhaled and all her sweetness, of flowers and the dinner she ate with her pink lips. She sighed and told her husband, “Tell me the story about atoms.”

  Aslan brushed her hair back away from his lips and cajoled her; surely she did not want to hear about atoms, the data screens, the numbers he analyzed all day. He was not very good at telling stories at all, darling, why do you want me to tell a story at all, at all about atoms?

“Because,” she answered with a feline yawn and pressed closer to his body, “Because you talk about atoms as if they were people, too. Tell me what they did today.”

He had studied physics for so long, the subject was sewn into the fabric of his life. He could not detach it from one holiday or another summer, and it always was, always breathing in the background of his life as the seasons fell and the seasons fell. And he had studied atoms for so long, he stuttered once or twice to tell the story, pulling in different directions, until beginning with the universe and bosons, but changed his mind mid-sentence and told her the story of entangled atoms.

“Tell me a story,” she said. The scientist’s wife turned her face towards his. They lay in bed in the darkness as car lights flickered off their walls. The sudden roar of a commuter train rushed below their window. When its clamor dissolved into the night, the tremor of the rails quieting, they folded in together against the tumult outside their windows, their world, and the scientist smelled the sweet breath of his wife as she repeated, “Tell me a story.”

“What kind of story?” Aslan asked her, kissing her hairline. Her face was in the well of his chest, a hand draped over his side. She was his beauty, she was his. He kissed her hairline again as she paused below his chin. Manu exhaled and all her sweetness, of flowers and the dinner she ate with her pink lips. She sighed and told her husband, “Tell me the story about atoms.”

  Aslan brushed her hair back away from his lips and cajoled her; surely she did not want to hear about atoms, the data screens, the numbers he analyzed all day. He was not very good at telling stories at all, darling, why do you want me to tell a story at all, at all about atoms?

  “Because,” she answered with a feline yawn and pressed closer to his body, “Because you talk about atoms as if they were people, too. Tell me what they did today.”

  He had studied physics for so long, the subject was sewn into the fabric of his life. He could not detach it from one holiday or another summer, and it always was, always breathing in the background of his life as the seasons fell and the seasons fell. And he had studied atoms for so long, he stuttered once or twice to tell the story, pulling in different directions, until beginning with the universe and bosons, but changed his mind mid-sentence and told her the story of entangled atoms.

About the Author

Lee Okan is a writer based in Boston. She is currently doing her PhD in Creative Writing at Aberystwyth University in Wales. The Lives of Atoms is her first novel.

Lee Okan

Copyright © 2018 Lee Okan

Cover photograph from the collection of Lauren Leja. 

ISBN 978-0-9993971-6-9

All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review or scholarly journal.

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