Reading Ninety-nine Stories can be a disjointed, disorienting experience. It’s accessible, subdivided into bite-sized, fast stories that serve to chill or humor or unsettle. But these segments, extreme in their brevity and hyper-precise in their language, are often deliberately contradictory, confusing the book’s own ideas and the reader’s understanding.
MacLeod’s stories are stunning vignettes of the subconscious’ desire to transpose the lived body’s sense-memories into the pure memory of the past—the proverbial “life flashing before one’s eyes”—a phenomenon that is frequently associated with moments of loss or death.
Unferth is unable to write a boring sentence. She denies her creations cliché resolution, is resilient to heroic evolutions, permits no godly miracles. We anticipate these ill-fated characters will succumb to their predicted dead-ends, but Unferth time after time demonstrates a remarkable gift for conjuring the unforeseeable, and the restricted scopes of her worlds miraculously give birth to expansive possibilities and ambient revelations through a voice ignited by its own humanity.
Right when most were expecting Saunders’s first novel would be the culmination of decades of his distinctively ecstatic and earnest comic stylings, the man has thoroughly zigged that zag with Lincoln in the Bardo, a book that is, whatever else it may be, nothing anyone was likely expecting.
In an inversion of The Handmaid’s Tale’s easily-grasped pictograms, our heroine gets stung because she does not understand the meaning behind a wordless feminine symbol. That is, she does not understand the symbology of herself.
Something akin to magic occurs when the reader is filled with knowledge that surpasses the characters on the page, when we gain authority over their insecurities and discomforts, when we have answers that could crack open their families, could soften their tensions, answers they will never know
For readers whose acquaintance with Patricia Highsmith (The Talented Mr. Ripley, Strangers on a Train) is only surface deep, Tyler's Last (Outpost19, 2015) by David Winner will be something of a shock. The frequent movie adaptations of her work make her a recognizable figure, yet leave a comfortable distance between the viewer and the author herself—up close, as we see her in this book, she is something else altogether, more intimate and intense, misanthropic and violent.
The fifteen stories in The Loss of All Lost Things (Elixir Press) force us to dismantle our understanding of loss, to question what can and cannot be misplaced, to examine failures in fidelity, absences in emotion, lapses in judgment and leaps in behavior—all in pursuit of human connection.
There is blood on the hands of the American soul. If we are born American citizens, we inherit this stain; but if we begin our lives elsewhere and then choose our American citizenship, we must absorb the stain as a necessary burden. We must prove or disprove through work, destruction, or enlightenment—through choice and action—that, to a point, we are well-suited to our national identity.