Stories

Fantastic author’s top hits

 

The Story Until Now provides the wonderful opportunity to revisit the long and distinguished career of a singular American voice. Much to her credit, Kit Reed is a difficult writer to categorize. Her novels and short stories traffic in science fiction and fabulism, in the surreal and the fantastic, sometimes separately and sometimes all at once. She has described her fiction, quite appropriately, as “trans-genred” and it has earned her a Guggenheim fellowship among other awards.

What’s most impressive about this new greatest-hits collection isn’t the range of styles at Reed’s command or the stunning genius of her unique vision or even the strange timeliness of stories written decades ago. No. What makes The Story Until Now so spectacular is that it demonstrates the extent to which contemporary, literary fiction is finally catching up to the sorts of stories she has been penning for half a century.

The earliest story here ( Piggy) first appeared in 1962 and the most recent ( The Legend of Troop) just this year. Only 1979’s The Weremother, about a mother of two who turns into a snarling beast, appears to be previously unpublished. Reed’s major themes include the breakdown of our therapeutic institutions ( Wherein We Enter the Museum and High Rise High), Kafkaesque flights of fancy ( Sisohpromatem and On the Penal Colony) and, most notably, animals ( Monkey Do, the unqualified classic Automatic Tiger). Many of these stories feel like parables, but Reed is too smart to be pinned down with easy, pedantic explanations. These are stories more content to ask questions than answer them.

In High Rise High, a teacher at a fortress-like high school asks an unhinged kid named Johnny to play a fairy in a production of Midsummer Night’s Dream, but the request doesn’t go over well, and the inmates/students start a riot and take prisoners. The brave and diminutive Agent Betsy goes in undercover to defuse the situation before the mayor can nuke the entire building. Reed’s use of second person narration makes the situation all the more intense.

Some of the other standouts here include The Bride of Bigfoot, Incursions and Song of the Black Dog, which features a canny canine that can sniff out people who are soon to die. My favorite here might be Automatic Tiger, which while wholly original brings to mind Haruki Murakami and Nathanael West. Think about that for a moment. In the story, an exotic pet inspires a new confidence in the everyday working sap who owns it, but the hubris that follows leads him far astray.

The Story Until Now provides many, many hours of thought provocation and pleasure, but Reed’s greatest contributions to American letters might be her willingness and ability to storm the gates and break down the barriers that prevent science fiction and fantasy from getting the critical attention it so richly deserves.

Andrew Ervin is the author of a collection of novellas “Extraordinary Renditions.”

Read more Books stories from the Miami Herald

  •  
 <span class="cutline_leadin">Bad Feminist</span>. Roxane Gay. Harper Perennial. 336 pages. $15.99 in paper.

    Essays

    Roxane Gay offers a biting perspective on pop culture in ‘Bad Feminist’

    Author of ‘An Untamed State’ offers her unique (and often biting) perspective on pop culture.

  •  
Brad Meltzer

    Book news

    Fundraiser supports Read to a Child

    Drinking wine, eating cheese, meeting local author Brad Meltzer — and helping kids learn to love books. What’s not to like about Read to a Child’s fund-raising event, from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday at Books & Books in Coral Gables?

  •  
 <span class="cutline_leadin">Against Football:</span> One Fan’s Reluctant Manifesto. Steve Almond. Melville House. 192 pages. $22.95.

    Sports

    Steve Almond considers football, our unkickable addiction

    The complex, excessive, tainted love for the game of football and its players, with all their brutality and excesses, is the focus of Steve Almond’s book. It’s an indictment, a self-excoriation and a provocative analysis of why so many Americans are hooked on this organized violence.

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category