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text 2018-05-23 22:27
“Her Body And Other Parties – second story: Inventory” by Carmen Maria Machado
Her Body and Other Parties: Stories - Carmen Maria Machado

 

"Her Body And Other Parties" is such a rich collection that I'm reviewing it one story at a time, mostly to enhance my enjoyment and understanding of these stories.

 

Inventory

 

"Inventory", the second story in this collection, is about thirteen pages long and fine example of the fact that short stories, even ones as short as this are not literary snacks that you consume between novels. This story has a dense mass to it that lodged in my imagination, demanding attention and thought. I read it twice, not because I didn't understand it the first time but because there is so much there that once just wasn't enough to absorb it. I don't think twice was either. I'll be coming back to this one.

 

So what is it that has me so engaged?

 

I found the style of the storytelling hypnotic, It is presented as an inventory of encounters with always-nameless lovers: men and woman singly or in combinations. Each encounter starts with a sentence inventorying who was involved in addition to the narrator: "One girl." "One boy, one girl", "Two boys, one girl". The next sentence often qualifies the inventory "One boy, one girl. My friends" or "Two boys, one girl. One of them my boyfriend." Then there is a description of where the encounter took place: "We drank stolen wine coolers in my room." or "His parents were out of town, so we threw a party at his house." The sex and its attendant affection, ecstasy, disappointment, mess, betrayal, solace or regret are described with a rhythm that documents the moment neutrally but in a way that is neither sterile nor erotic but deeply human and often sad.

As the encounters passed I got caught up in trying to understand the pattern they were making, trying to discover the lesson being taught. There was no pattern except accumulated experience and more informed choice and no lessons being taught, just a life being lived.

 

Life is not lived in a vacuum and this life is lived against the background of the outbreak of a global pandemic that destroys most of the population. In other stories, the pandemic would BE the story. We'd have a valiant against-the-odds struggle between man and bacteria, end-of-the-world symbolism, violence. conflict and heroism. "Inventory" is not that story. Its focus stays firmly on the encounters the woman has. The pandemic appears in the death of partners or the change of circumstances and choices but it never takes centre stage. Curiously, perhaps, this makes the pandemic much more sinister and threatening.

 

By the end of the story, it seemed to me that our narrator, faced with the possible end of days, has inventoried her own life. So what does it mean that there are no names, not even the narrator's own? Or that there are no encounters other than with lovers, however inept or opportunistic? Or that the narrator remains, always, fundamentally alone?

 

Answering those questions is the job of the reader. Asking them so that they demand an answer, or several answers is the job of the writer.

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text 2018-05-23 00:56
It's, well, different......
I Am an Executioner: Love Stories - Rajesh Parameswaran

"I Am An Executioner - Love Stories" is a collection of short stories by author Rajesh Parameswaran in which love, oddly enough, plays a part in all the stories. Just not in the traditional sense. We have one story told from the point of view of a tiger, and another from an insect. All stories are interesting, but admittedly, the "footnote" story I'll have to probably read a couple more times to "get it". 

 

Though I can't say I was blown away by this collection, I liked it enough to where I am very much looking forward to more books by Rajesh Parameswaran.

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review 2018-05-22 18:24
Robots Vs. Fairies
Robots vs. Fairies - Sarah Gailey,Lila Bowen,Alyssa Wong,Jim C. Hines,Maria Dahvana Headley,Linda Howard,Seanan McGuire,Mary Robinette Kowal,Madeline Ashby,Ken Liu,Lavie Tidhar,Annalee Newitz,William Ewart Gladstone,Jeffrey Ford,Catherynne M. Valente,Jonathan Maberry,John Sca

Rampaging robots! Tricksy fairies! Facing off for the first time in an epic genre death match!

People love pitting two awesome things against each other. Robots vs. Fairies is an anthology that pitches genre against genre, science fiction against fantasy, through an epic battle of two icons.

On one side, robots continue to be the classic sci-fi phenomenon in literature and media, from Asimov to WALL-E, from Philip K. Dick to Terminator. On the other, fairies are the beloved icons and unquestionable rulers of fantastic fiction, from Tinkerbell to Tam Lin, from True Blood to Once Upon a Time. Both have proven to be infinitely fun, flexible, and challenging. But when you pit them against each other, which side will triumph as the greatest genre symbol of all time?

 

A perfect coffee break book for those who appreciate either robots or fairy tales. I could read 1, sometimes 2, short stories per break.

My particular favourites were Build Me a Wonderland by Seanan McGuire, Murmured Under the Moon by Tim Pratt, and A Fall Counts Anywhere by Catherynne M Valente.

I’m a McGuire fan girl, so it’s no surprise that I enjoyed her story. It reminded me of her last novel of the Incryptid series, featuring an amusement park as it does. Ms. McGuire seems to be a fan of these facilities and so writes about them enthusiastically. She also writes the October Daye series, so is firmly on Team Fairy, although the story also features some robotic elements.

I will definitely be looking for more work by Tim Pratt! He has combined two of my favourite things, libraries and the Fae. I really, really liked this story.

Catherynne Valente’s offering was great, in that it utilized both robots and fairies, involved in a WWE type competition, complete with a combat ring and loud commentators! Her names for the robot contestants were excellent and she had me smiling all the way through the story.

I enjoyed all the stories to one degree or another, but those 3 were my highlights. I like robots just fine, but count me on Team Fairy all the way! I love those treacherous, dangerous, beautiful beings.

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review 2018-05-20 15:46
PARDON MY GHOULISH LAUGHTER by Fredric Brown
Pardon My Ghoulish Laughter - Donald E Westlake,Fredric Brown

 

PARDON MY GHOULISH LAUGHER is a collection of mystery stories from the detective pulps. Most of these tales were originally written back in the 1940's. What fun!

 

All of these stories have the possibility of being supernatural tales, but all end up having a perfectly reasonable explanation. What's fun is the getting to the explanation! I enjoyed every single tale here, but I think my favorites were:

 

TWICE KILLED CORPSE- which had a nice little twist as well as a hero that wanted to be a detective.

 

PARDON MY GHOULISH LAUGHTER- which had a lead character that reminded me of Jimmy Olsen. (I'm showing my age here!)

 

DEATH IS A WHITE RABBIT- which was a strange little tale with a remote hint of Dr. Moreau and his experiments. These things never go well.

 

This book was a boatload of fun and reminded me of my pre-teen and early teen years when I read these types of collections. The old Ellery Queen's and Alfred Hitchcock's were always a source of entertainment, but somehow I missed Frederic Brown back then. With this collection and NIGHTMARES AND GEEZENSTACKS, (which I listened to last year), Mr. Brown has made made my list of memorable and witty short story writers. I'll be on the lookout for anything else of his I can get my hands on.

 

*I received this book as a gift from my friend Tigus, at Booklikes, with no strings attached. Thank you once again, sir! *

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review 2018-05-16 04:01
Beyond Belief
Beyond Belief: My Secret Life Inside Scientology and My Harrowing Escape - Jenna Miscavige Hill,Sandy Rustin,Lisa Pulitzer

A few things I believe about Scientology:

 

1. L. Ron Hubbard was a con man and this was the ultimate con. He laughed all the way to the bank.

 

2. Dave Miscavige is an egomaniac and he beats his employees. 

 

3. Dave's wife has been missing for over a decade, only heard from through a lawyer, and I'm pretty sure she's dead.

 

4. I feel really bad for people that actually believe in this "religion". And that's coming from someone who believes in the invisible sky daddy. 

 

Jenna's story was so awful that at times it was hard to believe. But then you look up stories of people that escaped this cult and you learn it's an all-too-common tale. From working like a mule her whole childhood to having no true education to the constant paranoia that is the self-policing of Scientology, it was one huge nightmare. I mean, just saying you wanted to call the police was enough to get you a High Crime. A High Crime! They could beat you senseless (which they have done before) and if you say you are calling the authorities, you become the enemy.

 

I'm glad Jenna escaped. I was disappointed her husband wasn't so easy to convince to leave, but I am happy he did eventually go with her. I think books like this need to be shared so that others do not fall prey to cults. As Jenna herself said, Scientology may say to think for yourself, but it encourages the opposite. Brainwashing at its finest.

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