by Sara Crowley
judge a book by the cover - we all know this. But how about judging a
book by its smell? When I took Close
Encounters from the envelope it reeked! The scent of
strong incense clung to the pages, and I recoiled. I wouldn’t put the
book in my bag because of the smell, I wouldn’t read it in bed in case
it transferred to my bed linen. I spritzed the book with Febreeze. I
delayed reading. Also some pages are stuck together (and were before my
attempt at ridding it of the incense). This is not a book to
love. A shame, because the prose inside is solid, the
imaginative tales read well.
writes about the weird, the sideways glimpsed, and the damaged.
The collection opens with the line: "
don’t like retards very much." It’s
an unnecessary shocker of a line, Michalski is a good enough
writer that she need not rely on such tactics. Her writing is unshowy,
unfussy, and consistent. She writes about people on the margins of
society, like the stripper and “retard” in Our Place In The World
the lost brain damaged girl in Algorithm.
The self-harming woman in
waits to be recognized as queen by aliens that the voices in
her head tell her are coming. We ache for this poor woman, conjured
skillfully in such a short piece.
The Body is a
revolting story of an abused girl who befriends a corpse
she discovers in the woods. In
Fetu is an interesting story about Julia
who feels that she is two people. This is not a case of someone with a
multiple personality; rather it is an exploration of what it how things
could be if there really were two people fighting for control of one
were always two, even as they all thought we were only
one, even as you listen incredulously and think, no, there is only one,
one voice, one story. Although it is true that sometimes it is one
voice or the other, or story or the other, please be clear this is our
mood is lightened with The
Assistant and Commencement
Whitney Houston, East Southern University, June 9 2006,
but whilst they
are both humorous, I am not convinced that they are more than funny
ideas. The Movie
Version of My Life is another cool idea, but I was a
little disappointed that it wasn’t sharper.
strongest, and longest, story closes the collection. In The
Disappearers the central character, David, notices that a
colleague appears to have a transparent hand. So begins the collapse of
a regular successful guy. His wife, home life and career all suffer
because of the invisibility that only he can see. Michalski portrays
both David and his wife Sara with care. They are believable, rounded
characters, whose reactions are reasonable and logical considering
their circumstance. I wondered how on earth the story could end, but
when I got there, it was just right.
Intrigued? Read one of the
stories from this collection at UnlikelyStories.com
has had fiction published by Pulp.Net, elimae, flashquake and a variety
of other lovely places. “Salted”, her novel in progress, was
shortlisted for the 2007 Faber/Book Tokens Not Yet Published Award. She
blogs at asalted.blogspot.com
and appreciates you taking the time to read this.
Publisher: So New Media
Michalski lives in Baltimore. Her fiction has appeared in more than 25 publications, including McSweeneys, Failbetter, The Summerset Review, Word Riot, and Thieves Jargon. She is the editor of the online e-zine JMWW
with Jen Michalski
Buy this book (used or
Publisher's Website: So New Media
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other reviewers thought: