Book: Fantastic Women: 18 tales of the surreal and the sublime from Tin House
Authors: various (edited by Rob Spillman)
Published: 2011 (Tin House Books)
I’ve been trying to review this book but the mermaids and werewolves keep getting in the way.
They’re all over these stories, along with nuns who fall in love with lighthouse keepers and people who have two shadows, one of which grows up to be The Troubled One, and people with a surplus of oranges conducting surveys on if you think you’re someone’s most special person (hi, Miranda July!) and a woman who turns into a deer at night but doesn’t know how to tell her husband what it means and a woman bound and gagged and hanging upside down in her own home watching soldiers burn themselves and the neighborhood children on grill funeral pyres in her back yard. And a house with a tourist road running through it.
What I like most about these stories is how the peculiar parts of each are taken for granted: Uh, yeah there are pocket universes you can jump around in for fun and for hiding. That’s the way it’s always been. None of these writers club you over the head with the surreal aspects going “Look! I wrote something SURREAL! Isn’t it WEIRD and WACKY and WHIMSICAL and other w-words that mean HOLY SHIT UNIQUE?”
No. They write from places of serene, quiet confidence that you, dear reader, can figure out the weird shit on your own. They’re gonna focus on what’s going wrong over here, or how this lady gets through her day when things are falling apart.
Because they will fall apart, and nobody except the protagonists will notice until it’s too late, if ever. Sometimes the main women manage to right things, sometimes she just lets go. Either way it’s a great collection of ethereal stories that all touch each other’s fancy without being remotely identical. Yay, Tin House.
I might use the rest of this space to blab about how I don’t like when women writers are described as such. Words of all things should be taken equally as seriously from whoever writes them and based on whether the words or plots or characters or styles are stupid or not. Blah blah, done with that because I do also enjoy being able to end on a hypocritical “Awesome, ladies” note. I mean, I am a proud member of their tribe.