In life, we come up against people or situations that are unexpected and that shake us to our core. And I think a lot of my stories are interested in what we do when that happens. How do we react? Who do we reach out to? Who do we push away?
There are so many things I don’t know, or that I’ve overlooked, or misunderstood, or thought I couldn’t imagine, and sometimes, through fiction, they become more immediate and real.
Still, what is “surprising” in Malinda McCollum’s excellent new book and winner of the Juniper Prize for Fiction is not a matter of geography, in the prosaic sense. Rather, it concerns a different kind of space, a province of heart and mind.
McCollum guides readers through the jagged terrain of her characters’ consciousness, plunging into the most vulnerable and wounded corners through her sharp and cutting prose.
I love short stories that whirl and whirl and then suddenly stop, so we’re left wobbly, buzzing, stunned.
This is not the Des Moines of civic boosters, spacious parks, public art, clean air and other wholesome attractions. . . McCollum’s writing is edgy, energetic, often funny.
I wanted to go beyond the archetypal image of Midwesterners as clear-eyed and level-headed – or as provincial and repressed – and explore characters with more complexity.
The Quiet-Loud-Quiet scheme you hear in a lot of 90s songs lines up with my book’s characters, who often struggle to articulate what they most long for – and then suddenly explode.
The 12 loosely linked tales in McCollum’s prize-winning, virtuosic debut are as funny and vivid as the characters are lonely and desperate.