In a spine-tingling new collection, the “unique”(NPR) and “wickedly funny” (New York Times) Helen Phillips offers an idiosyncratic series of “what-ifs” about our fragile human condition.
Some Possible Solutions offers an idiosyncratic series of "What ifs": What if your perfect hermaphrodite match existed on another planet? What if you could suddenly see through everybody's skin to their organs? What if you knew the exact date of your death? What if your city was filled with doppelgangers of you?
Forced to navigate these bizarre scenarios, Phillips' characters search for solutions to the problem of how to survive in an irrational, infinitely strange world. In dystopias that are exaggerated versions of the world in which we live, these characters strive for intimacy and struggle to resolve their fraught relationships with each other, with themselves, and with their place in the natural world. We meet a wealthy woman who purchases a high-tech sex toy in the shape of a man, a rowdy, moody crew of college students who resolve the energy crisis, and orphaned twin sisters who work as futuristic strippers--and with Phillips' characteristic smarts and imagination, we see that no one is quite who they appear.
By turns surreal, witty, and perplexing, these marvelous stories are ultimately a reflection of our own reality and of the big questions that we all face. Who are we? Where do we fit? Phillips is a true original and a treasure.
High concepts and sly emotion animate this solid collection of allegorical fiction from the author of And Yet They Were Happy and The Beautiful Bureaucrat. In "The Knowers," a wife learns the precise date of her death via a kind of morbid ATM, then reluctantly divulges the information to her husband. A young mother moves to a town of eerie look-alikes in "The Doppelg ngers," where she eventually breast-feeds a child that bears an uncanny resemblance to her own. In "The Joined," the world watches with envy as astronauts physically fuse with an alien race, achieving a blissful mind-body symbiosis not available to humanity. The last two stories are the collection's best: the narrator of "The Wedding Stairs" finds a life's worth of embarrassments have manifested as stains on her gown, and in "Contamination Generation," a father wrestles with inadequacy in the shadow of his neighbor's mansion. Among the other stories of wifedom and motherhood, this final glimpse into the male psyche offers a feel of the fantastic, of the playfulness and discovery that characterizes the collection as a whole.