One of my favorite sections at the Main Library is the short story collection on First Floor. Every time I have occasion to walk back to the stacks that way, I linger (just for a minute!) over the books the wonderful First Floor librarians have put on display.
And let me tell you, they put some awesome books on display.
Recently I’ve discovered three absurdist / fabulist collections by new-ish writers that I absolutely loved. If you want to laugh, cry, shoot your breakfast cereal out through your nose or just enjoy a delightful story, I recommend checking out all three (or if you wanted to be conservative you could start with one, I guess, but don’t ask me to rank them).
Amelia Gray’s Museum of the Weird: This collection delivers on the title’s promise in a big way. The front cover features the weird objects from each story, illustrated and placed on pedestals with name tags, like something you’d find in a real-life museum: Plate of Hair. Armadillo With Miller High Life. Javelina Eating Sunflower Seeds. Human Tongue Sauteed in Buttermilk. The stories themselves plumb the depths of humanity in an off-kilter way. They often end short of a satisfying conclusion (what happened to the woman with a bezoar in her throat?!), and leave you with an unsettled feeling.
When Mystical Creatures Attack! by Kathleen Founds: Founds’ debut collection reads almost like a novel instead of a collection, except that each story can stand on its own. Taken all together, though, the book becomes a powerful meditation on mental illness, education and the joys and trials of love. The stories mainly follow an English teacher and several of her students, and take the form of school assignments, email exchanges, diary entries and more. About two-thirds of the way through the book, it gets rather dark, but the ending redeems it.
The Hypothetical Girl by Elizabeth Cohen: Cohen tackles the bizarre world of online dating in this hefty collection of flash and short fiction. Cohen’s made-up dating site names alone are worth the read. Marryme.com, loveforreals.com and flirtypants.com appear on the second page, and the names get funnier as the book progresses. Some of the stories feature fantastical elements, like a mother who can literally remove her heart from her chest, but most compellingly highlight the strange things people do when they’re in love, think they’re in love or really want to be in love in a way that’s only a little bit exaggerated.
What’s your favorite absurd, bizarre or fabulist book?