This first collection of short fiction by award-winning poet Sabrina Orah Mark encompasses fairytales, absurdism, infantilized Presidents, Jewish families, angst, lisps, skewed yet somehow inevitable logic, Samuel Beckett, surrealist daycare, songs, gripes, scribbles, and jokes taken far past their comfort zones. These are stories that take in our contemporary moment only to remake it into something stranger, something less obvious and possible.
Poet Mark's fiction debut (after Tsim Tsum) constructs a fantastical and absurd world in which characters' understanding of the everyday is twisted and skewed. In this short story collection, all bets are off, as a mother's calls to her daughter from her dentist appointments become increasingly fraught ("Mother at the Dentist") and Hillary Clinton is someone's cleaning lady ("Are You My Mother?"). In "The Roster," a new professor arrives to her first day of teaching only to discover that her students include such luminaries as Bruno Schulz and Samuel Beckett, all of whom she becomes obsessed with, in a clever and meta story about literature. In some stories, Mark takes a word or concept and deconstructs it such as with a personification of Twitter in the aptly named "Tweet." It's a flex of her poetic chops, though it's hit-or-miss in this collection. The strongest entries are the ones that most resemble traditional stories structurally, and where some rules exist to corral the extent of Mark's expansive imagination. Still, Mark's language is truly stunning ("That the message was now a poem made it no less a beast, but this beast might one day grow to love us."). Mark's collection is perplexingly captivating; she applies a poet's playful sensibilities to the fiction form and creates something astonishing and new.