Gunnhild Øyehaug’s Knots, Review

I recommend Gunnhild Øyehaug’s short story collection Knots, out from FSG this summer.

It felt foreordained to open this short story collection by the Norwegian writer Gunnhild Øyehaug and find IKEA on the first page, as in: “…park the car outside IKEA.” IKEA, now based in the Netherlands, originated in Sweden, but to many foreigners, it personifies Scandinavia—pleasant and unthreatening. “Blah, how boring,” was my first thought. Then, trying to stave off disappointment at being welcomed by the all-too-familiar global brand, I told myself, “Well, I guess IKEA did start somewhere nearby. Perhaps, Scandinavians have a particular attachment to clean lines.” (Nervous laughter.) I know that stereotyping is a form of blindness; in practice, my desire for novelty trips me up and leads to overly broad generalizations. Like a tourist, I had to remind myself to check my expectations at the airport.

Gunnhild Øyehaug’s Norway begins, indeed, with the comfortably familiar. . . .

Read the rest of my review on The Common.

The Catography of Others

Catherine McNamara is a uniquely gifted writer, able to translate her amazing travel and life experiences into thought-provoking fiction. I’ve read some of Catherine’s work, and I’m delighted to welcome her upcoming book, The Cartography of Others. It’s being crowdfunded by a UK-based press, Unbound. This promises to be a super cool campaign with some awesome pledges — how about an opera date in Verona?

The Cartography of Others is a collection of twenty stories that take place from fumy Accra to the Italian Dolomites, from suburban Sydney to high-rise Hong Kong. Lives are mapped, unpicked, crafted, overturned. Each story inhabits a location that becomes as vital as the characters themselves, men and women who are often far from home, immersed in unfamiliar cultures, estranged from those they hold dear. Love is panicked, worn, tested.

There’s a cool book video, too.

https://unbound.com/books/the-cartography-of-others

Interview in a Russian journal

Интервью брал Сергей Князев для журнала “Питербук”:

Недавно в московском издательстве «Время» вышел сборник рассказов Ольги Гренец «Хлоп-страна». Как и две предыдущих книги, вышедших в петербургских издательствах, — «Кофе Inn» и «Ключи от потерянного дома» — это переводы с английского, несмотря на то, что Ольга — уроженка Ленинграда и, по своим собственным словам, заочно училась писать у Лидии Корнеевны Чуковской и Михаила Булгакова. В интервью русская писательница, живущая в Сан-Франциско и сочиняющая на английском говорит о своем третьем сборнике рассказов «Хлоп-страна», разнице между русским и американским Сэлинджером и правилах создания текста, которые можно не соблюдать.

— У вас вышла уже третья книга рассказов. Почему именно рассказы, ведь считается, что популярностью у публики и издателей пользуются главным образом романы?

— Когда я только начинала писать, трудно было бороться со своим внутренним критиком. Напишешь предложение, думаешь: так уже тысячу раз писали, надо по-другому…

Продолжение тут.

Infestation

bedroom

Lying in bed on Saturday night, her eyes closed in the imperfect darkness of the room, her limbs cooling from the day’s chores, Marcie felt a crawling sensation on her right arm, the one outside the blanket. Something crept from her shoulder down to her wrist and then jumped to her belly.

Marcie was lying on her left side, hugging the body pillow in a way that felt comfortable in the thirty-second week of pregnancy. The squash-sized creature inside her belly was still asleep, but the longer she stayed horizontal, the sooner it would be waking up. Marcie needed to get her sleep as efficiently as possible.

The sheet, covering her belly, moved. ….

read the rest of the story in World Literature Today’s January issue.

Love and Hair

I’m delighted to report that my story “Love and Hair” won Willesden Herald’s International short story competition. The award ceremony took place in London this week, and I took home the coveted prize: a large mug and a bottle of campaign. The story appears in an anthology, New Short Stories 9, together with nine other short-listed stories. I’ve been reading the anthology, and I’m so impressed with the competition.

Here’s the snippet from my story. The print anthology is available on Amazon US and Amazon UK.

The stage crew had been drinking since The Wizard of Oz Singalong the night before and now the director, suffering from a sinus infection, was losing her voice, pleading over the phone with actors calling in sick. This was a radical departure from the spirit of fun and camaraderie I’d expected when I volunteered to perform in an amateur production of The Vagina Monologues. During our final run-through just hours before opening night curtain, we were three actors short and had to find substitutes. I’d recruited half a dozen of my friends to buy tickets—and what if any of them actually showed up? The lack of professionalism embarrassed me.

As the rehearsal finally got underway, my phone buzzed. The house manager turned to me and hissed, animal-like, “What’s that?” She’d been getting on my nerves all afternoon, having berated me for bringing a burrito into the theatre and for daring to eat it while she talked to us about emergency exits. I ignored her and looked at my phone.

A text message: “I’m in San Francisco.” My new phone failed to decode the number, but I had a good feeling the text came from this girl Hana, an Israeli who lived in Portland.

“Great,” I texted back, “I’ll see you after the show.”

On the first night I’d met her, Hana put her hand on my shoulder, gripping firmly, and said, “You look so Russian, Yelena. I’d love to seduce you.” Then she toasted me with whiskey and walked away.