Fen Stories

Daisy Johnson, 1990-

Book - 2017

Fen is a liminal land. Real people live their lives here. They wrestle with familiar instincts, with sex and desire, with everyday routine. But the wild is always close at hand, ready to erupt. This is a place where animals and people commingle and fuse, where curious metamorphoses take place, where myth and dark magic still linger. So here a teenager may starve herself into the shape of an eel. A house might fall in love with a girl. A woman might give birth to a well what?

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Short stories
Minneapolis, Minnesota : Graywolf Press 2017.
Main Author
Daisy Johnson, 1990- (author)
Item Description
First published in Great Britain in 2016 by Jonathan Cape, an imprint of Vintage Publishing, which is part of Penguin Random House UK"--Title page verso.
Physical Description
vii, 192 pages ; 21 cm
  • Starver
  • Blood rites
  • A bruise the shape and size of a door handle
  • How to lose it
  • How to fuck a man you don't know
  • Language
  • The superstition of albatross
  • A heavy devotion
  • The scattering: a story in three parts
  • Birthing stones
  • The cull
  • The lighthouse keeper.
Review by New York Times Review

THE DEATH AND LIFE OF THE GREAT LAKES, by Dan Egan. (Norton, $27.95.)Although climate change, population growth and invasive species are destabilizing the Great Lakes' wobbly ecosystem, Egan splices together history, science, reporting and personal experience into a taut and cautiously hopeful narrative. THE GIFT: (Or, Techniques of the Body), by Barbara Browning. (Coffee House/Emily Books, paper, $15.95.) This smart, funny, heartbreaking and often sexy novel concerns an artist and professor of performance studies (like the author) engaged in a continuing art project that bears an uncertain resemblance to her life. MISS BURMA, by Charmaine Craig. (Grove, $26.) A character based on Craig's Jewish grandfather marries a woman who belongs to a non-Burmese ethnic minority, the Karen, in a novel that reimagines their extraordinary lives. Their mixed-race daughter becomes the "Miss Burma" of the title. Themes of identity, longing and trust are addressed over nearly 40 years of Burmese history. THE ALLURE OF BATTLE: A History of How Wars Have Been Won and Lost, by Cathal J. Nolan. (Oxford University, $34.95.) A historian argues that focusing on battles is the wrong way to understand wars, because attrition is what almost always wins. This thoughtprovoking book suggests a new approach to military history. ERNEST HEMINGWAY: A Biography, by Mary V. Dearborn. (Knopf, $35.) A perceptive and tough-minded biographer, Dearborn is immune to the Hemingway legend, and concentrates instead on what formed him as a man and a writer. She skillfully covers an enormous range of rich material. MUSIC OF THE GHOSTS, by Vaddey Ratner. (Touchstone, $26.) This tenaciously melodic novel explores art and war as an orphaned Cambodian refugee travels from her new home in Minneapolis to the Buddhist temple where her father was raised by monks, hoping against hope that he is still alive. The author discerns the poetic even in brutal landscapes and histories. WHERE THE LINE IS DRAWN: A Tale of Crossings, Friendships and Fifty Years of Occupation in Israel- Palestine, by Raja Shehadeh. (New Press, $25.95.) In deeply honest and intense essays, Shehadeh, a civil rights lawyer who now lives in Ramallah, describes his psychological and physical crossings into Israel. THE WITCHFINDER'S SISTER, by Beth Underdown. (Ballantine, $28.) An English witchhunter caused more than a hundred women to be hanged in the 1640s. In this ominous, claustrophobic novel, Underdown imagines his pregnant, widowed sister, who sees the malignant forces at work but is powerless to resist. FEN: Stories, by Daisy Johnson. (Graywolf, paper, $16.) The stories in Johnson's debut collection explore the shape-shifting world of the Fens, flat, once flooded lands in the east of England. The full reviews of these and other recent books are on the web: nytimes.com/books

Copyright (c) The New York Times Company [July 16, 2018]
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Centered in the depressed flatlands of eastern England, the stories in Johnson's debut collection straddle the drama of transformation in both the uncanny and the everyday. "A Bruise in the Shape of a Door Handle" describes a woman's house falling in love with her girlfriend. So affectionate is the house that it consumes her arm "to the elbow in something that once was wall and now was loose, flabby." In "Starver," a girl is transfigured into a fish. Ignoring her mother's protestations, her sister must set her free in the water once gills begin "shuttering on the side of her neck." These imaginative depictions of entrapment and escape pair well with more ordinary stories. In "The Scattering," a 15-year-old named Matilda falls in with her older brother's friends. "In a town where there was nothing to do," Johnson writes of the group, "they did well at nothing." Their gatherings around an impromptu skate park built into a "copse of thin trees," follow a familiar teenage arc, but Johnson manages to make these scenes as thrillingly direct as any of the supernatural fare that precedes them. "She thought there must be times you caught yourself learning," Johnson writes of Matilda, as she becomes accepted by the group: rather than going from girl to fish, she is conquering the equally daunting task of going from girl to woman. (May) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

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