An enterprising Japanese capitalist, presumably in conjunction with the state, recruits women from all over the country to work at an innovative new silk factory, appealing both to their own financial need and to their patriotism. Once they sign the Agent’s contract, the women find themselves mutating into human silkworms.
Through the invocation of epic prose forms and literary allusion, Kincaid elevates the nuclear family drama to a grand level as she draws un-remarked and seemingly sincere parallels between the passions and animosities of familial relationships and the grand scope of literary and mythic history. In doing so, she taps into the reader’s intuitive sense of the way all personal tragedies and triumphs feel epic to those who go through them.
Though some stories in Astray are more poignant than others, Donoghue once again shows herself to be a writer who excels at evoking characters with startling precision. The result is an exceptional collection that meditates widely on the way in which even the most stable-seeming lives can quickly unravel, revealing the contingent nature of the idea of stability itself.
Perhaps it’s fair to say that the big accomplishment of Diaz’s new book is that it does what authors have always done, but it does it really well. He explores grand concepts—pain, love, history, and life—through an obsessive devotion to particulars. The violence of colonial history replays itself in the troubled starts and stops of a family struggling for connection and in Yunior’s own search for love.
Sketching the parameters of Baggott’s palimpsestic narrative is tricky. Briefly put, the backstory of the novel involves a hyperbolic escalation of conservative cultural rhetoric that seeks a return to “traditional” values: restrained, upper-class politeness and hardline gender roles. The maniacal masterminds behind this so-called “Return of Civility” followed a violent effort at social engineering with a wave of nuclear attacks, referred to in the novel as the Detonations.
While the collection of eight stories has its highs and lows, Pritchard’s newest book offers an unforgettable tour through the author’s exceptionally rich prose worlds. From the suggestively self-reflective to the evocatively political, The Odditorium immerses the reader in stories woven from a dense and dynamic imagination, exquisitely executed and brilliantly textured.
Obsessed with the idea of apocalypse, the child whose world is on the verge of unwinding takes comfort in the fantastic tales of sea serpents and ravenous wolves, tortured demi-gods and Yggdrasil—the tree that holds the world in its branches. The thin child finds a way to live in these stories, which vividly reflect the terrors, uncertainties, and vicissitudes of life in a way that both “the sweet, cotton-wool meek and mild” Jesus and “the barbaric sacrificial gloating” Old Testament deity fail to do.
After a happy, if lean, year spent in a tiny mountain cabin, struggling to get their bearings—financial and otherwise, James receives an offer he is unable to refuse. A friend of Kate’s, he learns, has been living the high life for years off of his prospering business in the marijuana industry. Darren owns several properties with untold numbers of workers and can afford to spend half his time and a good chunk of his money in Thailand, sleeping around and supporting a small farming industry of some sort.
The family takes a trip over the frozen sea to a lighthouse. While there, the 6 year-old daughter, Maja, vanishes without a trace. Her small footsteps lead away from the lighthouse over the snow and ice, then vanish.
The revealed mystery of “those across the river,” how they came to be and what they want, is a delightfully genre-bending juxtaposition of supernatural horror and gothic drama. Buehlman blends these surprising elements in a novel that is simultaneously poetically spare and defiantly eclectic.
The pieces in this collection are tight knots or loose koans—sweet little puzzles. Told with the disarming guilelessness of parables, Aiken’s stories slip the apparent structure of their bounds at the last moment. For example, “The Monkey’s Wedding,” while describing the scrabble for the eponymously named painting, also explores the open-ended drama of a fractured family.