I have returned from England with a rash-covered face and a spring in my step. I n an effort to bring the blog up to this fresh feeling 2008ness here the rest of the short story collection reviews from 2007.
Top Top Stories edited by Anne Turyn
I picked up Top Top Stories at Ejay’s Books in Pittsburgh. It was in the Beat section for some reason, perhaps because it was published by City Lights in 1991. From the book jacket, I learned that Top Stories was an experimental fiction journal published by Turyn in the 80s and 90s. In this collection there are a bunch of [my] household names: Jenny Holzer, Kathy Acker, Lynne Tillman, Cookie Mueller and more. Mueller’s piece which features a few short stories to begin to tell how to get rid of pimples (”How To Get Rid of Pimples” [excerpt]) really opened her up to me. I loved the stories, with their quiet wonderful rhythms: “In a suburban house with white shingles and black shutters, Ioona, a woman of forty lived with her mother, a woman of sixty-four.” This sentence maybe isn’t the most enticing, but imagine wave after wave of listing tweaked facts and “circumstances of cures [for acne]” leading up to the regime, a list of actions that now seem mustily extreme in the days of Proactiv. It practically rocked me into a contented stupor, feel-good but not feel-dumb. I now get a feeling of what was so beguiling about her to John Waters and Nan Goldin and everyone else.
The stories also include a few entries that mix text and illustration. Lynne Tillman & Jane Dickson’s piece, “Living With Contradictions,” is a surprisingly affecting story that seems to ask what is settling in romantic love? Dickson’s wet and heavy illustrations take up most of the page and Tillman tells the story in short bursts of a few sentences and it is perfect.
This book has made me curious about finding other work by these authors and learning more about Turyn, which was, perhaps, exactly what it was going for.
The Best of Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet edited by Kelly Link and Gavin J. Grant
Sigh. As much as I hate to say it, this was a disappointing affair. Even with over thirty poems and stories, the reader doesn’t really get a sense of the weird wonderfulness that Link and Grant wreak by doing what they do, which is cultivating (and publishing) a group of writers with voices that creep into your brain and tug at the loose stuff, scaring and awing you in the process.
The upside is that it reminded me to check out their catalog and make a list to check twice. You should do the same.
Mountains of Madness and other stories by H.P. Lovecraft
The title story was of the utmost creepiness and beauty. Details, details made it perfect and it turns out, the penguins are real. Tantalizing enough for you? The other stories were not as good, though I did enjoy the one that used an elbow as an element of revolting horror.