Gutshot

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PLOT– A collection of visceral, magical, and often horrifying short stories by Amelia Gray.

LIKE– I received Amelia Gray’s short story collection, Gutshot, as part of my Quarterly Company Literary Box. The spring 2017 box was curated by Borne author, Jeff Vandermeer and as part of his picks, Vandermeer included Gray’s collection.

I had never heard of Gray previous to her book arriving in my box, but immediately, I was drawn to the title and cover art. I packed Gutshot to take on my cruise to Alaska, but just a few pages into the first story, I realized that this was too special of a collection to read while on a distracting, family holiday. I stuck to magazines for the vacation. Now, eight months later, I finally found a distraction free afternoon and took the plunge.

Many of her stories are raw and powerful. There are few that elicited the feeling of the title: Gutshot. I felt physically moved and wounded while reading them.

Here are a few of my favorites.

A Contest- a micro-short about people competing to put on the best display of mourning for a person that they love who has died. They are told that the gods will pick the person that has experienced the most grief and that person’s loved one will come back to them. Several people are mentioned and they are all very worthy, including parents grieving over a lost child. The story simply ends with one sentence involving a character who had not been mentioned earlier in the story, a woman who opens her front door to find that her cat has returned. This had me in tears. I’ve lost so many people and pets in my life, but honestly mourning a pet is such a different type of grief.

The Lives of Ghosts – Marcy has recently lost her mother, but discovers that her mom is haunting her in the form of an enormous pimple on Marcy’s face. A pimple that talks and gives advice, including unsolicited motherly advice. This story was so completely unexpected, humorous, and ultimately heartbreaking. I found myself laughing out loud at this irreverent story.

Thank You– A hilarious story about an escalating passive-aggressive exchange of thank you notes. Thank You, as with many of Gray’s stories, increases in outrageousness, creating a fantasy situation. Very funny and relatable. I don’t think there are many women who won’t relate to this frenemy story with manners.

DISLIKE– I can’t claim to like each of Gray’s stories with equal measure; some were so bizarre that I found trouble connecting. Often her stories turned grotesque or incredibly violent, which is not something that bothers me, but I also felt that it didn’t always serve the story, like it was for shock value more than anything.

RECOMMEND– Yes! Gray is a talented writer and the stories in Gutshot are not ones that I can easily compare to another author. They might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but they are certainly original. The stories that got me in my gut, I will not soon forget. I look forward to reading more stories by Gray.

Quarterly Literary Box- Winter 2017

Yesterday afternoon, my Quarterly Literary Box for winter arrived. I had completely forgotten about my subscription to the Quarterly Literary Box, making it an even bigger surprise. Here in Portland, where it seems like winter will never end, I need books and coffee to keep my days sunny.

For those of you not familiar with Quarterly, they are a company that sends out seasonal subscription boxes on a variety of topics. I subscribe to the Adult Literary Box, but they also have boxes themed to YA lit, culinary, crafts, tech, et.. They have tons of different themes, and not all are book related.

What I love most about the Quarterly Literary Box, is each season, the box is curated by a different author. The fall 2016 box was curated by Brit Bennett, author of The Mothers, and this winter box was curated by Kayla Rae Whitaker.

Here is the included note from Whitaker.1486507718787

The featured item is an annotated copy of Whitaker’s latest novel, The Animators. The bad news is I have already read The Animators, having recieved an advanced readers copy. The good news is I absolutely loved Whitaker’s novel and I’m looking forward to reading through her annotations ( done specifically for Quarterly subscribers), before passing the book along.

Check out my review of The Animators.

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As curator, Whitaker picked two additional books by other authors to include in the box. I was not familiar with either book, however, I have read other books by Maggie Nelson. My Quarterly subscription is a bit like going on a blind date, but with books. I love it!

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The last inclusions were non-book items, yet related to the theme. For example, last month, Bennett included a mug with a quote from her book. Whitaker chose to include a bookmark and colored pencils. This works to the theme of her novel, with her main characters both animators. I’m not into crafts, but this was a fun addition, although I think I like how the bookmark looks in black and white. What’s a bit special about this bookmark, is its designer is  Julie Doucet, a cartoonist, or as Whitaker mentions in her letter “Trailblazing cartoonist”. I’ve never heard of Doucet, but it seems to be a well-thought out inclusion for her box. Besides, I can never have too many bookmarks.1486509181682

On a whole, I’m very happy with my winter 2017 Quarterly Literary Box. I can’t wait to read Whitaker’s picks and to see what comes in the mail for spring. I’m going to try to forget about my subscription, so that in three months, I have another “happy-snail-mail-surprise-day.”