I was delighted when this tiny book arrived in my mailbox a couple days ago, and I ate it up, licked my fingers, flipped the pages, and then returned to the shelf to look through the whole thing again and suck up all the little crumbs. xTx's stories floor me. Her plots are struggles, brutal, feminine, painful, but told from the point of view of real survivors. The tone is masterfully balanced. Experiences may be excruciating for the narrators in these stories, they may be abused and confused and even losing their minds, yet they persist and appreciate the beauty beyond -- and in -- perversion and darkness.
Things I also love about these stories and others I've read of hers: unlikely phrasing and plots that seem to creep up insidiously and choke the reader by surprise. "Because I Am Not a Monster" exhibits xTx's perfect control over her reader so well, a hypothetical journey-not-taken by a perhaps-psychotic lover a coast away from lover/victim. "I Love My Dad, My Dad Loves Me" is wonderfully unsettling in its insistence. "An Unsteady Place" eroded into surrealism so gracefully I hardly noticed it happen.
Some phrases I loved:
"But I will keep trying because every wall in the world is waiting for the impact of my head."
"...the tangle of emotions that tightroped somewhere between sex and fear."
"His bare feet make tiny tracks that the sea licks away at crooked intervals. It is like he is being tasted and savored."
"The home of this house is strictly a facade. It's like I can see bone, blood, and skull through razor cuts in a perfect face: a whore in a habit."
"...when I retreat their laughter sounds like the scream of a kite string cutting the wind."
"I came out and saw them lying there in the dark and their legs were splayed like their arms were splayed across a store window but completely beautiful and easy to hurt, in that, I could do anything to them if I wanted to."
"'One must try,' I told you after my arms were as empty as your expression."
And lots more.
Her prose bites and hurts. The narrators feel so close it warms. This book is stunning and worth buying and the stories worth revisiting. This is the first publication coming out of Roxane Gay's Tiny Hardcore Press and I hope it's only the first of more little lovely books to come.