There are two very exciting short story collections coming our way in February! I read and enjoyed both of them, but reviewing a short story collection extensively is hard for me, so I thought it’d be great to combine the two reviews!
Kink: Stories Edited by R.O. Kwon and Garth Greenwell
Goodreads blurb: Kink is a dynamic anthology of literary fiction that opens an imaginative door into the world of desire. The stories within this collection portray love, desire, BDSM, and sexual kinks in all their glory with a bold new vision. The collection includes works by renowned fiction writers such as Callum Angus, Alexander Chee, Vanessa Clark, Melissa Febos, Kim Fu, Roxane Gay, Cara Hoffman, Zeyn Joukhadar, Chris Kraus, Carmen Maria Machado, Peter Mountford, Larissa Pham, and Brandon Taylor, with Garth Greenwell and R.O. Kwon as editors.
The stories within explore bondage, power-play, and submissive-dominant relationships; we are taken to private estates, therapists’ offices, underground sex clubs, and even a sex theater in early-20th century Paris. While there are whips and chains, sure, the true power of these stories lies in their beautiful, moving dispatches from across the sexual spectrum of interest and desires, as portrayed by some of today’s most exciting writers.
This was a really solid anthology! I like anthologies where different authors come together to explore a topic through short stories because I get to sample an author’s writing that I have not read from before, but also to read new stuff from authors I already love. And that’s what happened with Kink. Overall, I liked half of the stories and disliked the other half, but I still thought that the collection as a whole worked really well, and I am really glad I read it. The stories for me fell into two camps: one where kink was explored for the sake of exploring sexuality and kink for the sake of exploring it and those that use kink and sexuality as a device to explore different themes. While obviously all of these stories have a lot of different things to say, I do feel like they fall predominantly into one of those two camps. I preferred the latter, but I still think there was merit in the stories that did the first thing too.
Some clear standouts in the collection for me were first – Larissa Pham’s Trust. I think this one might be my favorite, just because I went in with no expectations (I have not heard about the author before) and ended up really loving the story A LOT. Brandon Taylor’s Oh Youth and Carmen Maria Machado’s The Lost Performance of the High Priestess of the Temple of Horror were the other two clear standouts, but those two I fully expected to love (especially Machado’s who is one of my favorite writers ever). I absolutely LOVED these three stories, I think they were exceptionally well written, but also really interesting in content and the themes they explored, and also how they used sex, sexuality and kink to explore those topics. I think the collection as a whole is worth just those three but I did also really like some other stories.
To name them, Safeword by R.O. Kwon, Gospodar by Garth Greenwell and Scissors by Kim Fu were all really great reads for me, and I quite enjoy Melissa Febos’ story as well.
So overall, I think this is a really solid anthology that explores desire and sexuality in really compelling ways and I would definitely recommend checking this one out!
Milk Blood Heat by Dantiel W. Moniz
Goodreads blurb: Set among the cities and suburbs of Florida, each story in Milk Blood Heat delves into the ordinary worlds of young girls, women, and men who find themselves confronted by extraordinary moments of violent personal reckoning. These intimate portraits of people and relationships scour and soothe and blast a light on the nature of family, faith, forgiveness, consumption, and what we may, or may not, owe one another.
A thirteen-year-old meditates on her sadness and the difference between herself and her white best friend when an unexpected tragedy occurs; a woman recovering from a miscarriage finds herself unable to let go of her daughter—whose body parts she sees throughout her daily life; a teenager resists her family’s church and is accused of courting the devil; servers at a supper club cater to the insatiable cravings of their wealthy clientele; and two estranged siblings take a road-trip with their father’s ashes and are forced to face the troubling reality of how he continues to shape them. Wise and subversive, spiritual and seductive, Milk Blood Heat forms an ouroboros of stories that bewitch with their truth.
While I really enjoyed Kink, Milk Blood Heat I absolutely loved and I think it’s such a good debut collection. Moniz’s writing style works really well for me, and there was not a single story in here that I thought was bad. I think the prose in here was so eloquent and I found the way that the author explored relationships so insightful and intelligent. I particularly enjoy how taut the dynamics in here were, especially between mothers and daughters and I found the discussions around body and girlhood so pitch perfect.
There stories stuck with me and I particularly enjoyed how they did not end neatly, but yet felt well rounded and well constructed. There’s a heat that the writing exudes and the stories sometimes felt overwhelmingly hot and stifling and I loved that ability to evoke such a feeling. It’s hard to choose a favorite in a collection that had so many gems, but I particularly enjoyed the titular story, as well as Feast and Necessary Bodies.
I could not recommend the collection more, it was such an impactful read for me, one that I think I will go back to during the year, and I cannot wait to see what the author does next!
I would love to hear from you! Tell me do you enjoy short story collections, and if so, what do you think of these? ALSO, if you have any recommendations to something similar to either of these, would love to hear!
In the meantime, happy reading
* If you want to buy any of the books I talked about, you can use my Bookshop affiliate link if you’re in the USA! You buy a book and support local bookstores, and I get a small commission! Even if you do not want to use my own affiliate link, I would still recommend using Bookshop.org since a lot of independent bookstores are struggling and this is a nice way to help them out. You can even find your favorite local bookstore and support them directly!
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