Antler Review: August

August was such an exciting month! I got go to Worldcon and meet all kinds of cool people I only know from the internet, and see loads of others again! I danced with a fourteen foot robot at George R. R. Martin’s Hugo Losers party, thanks to my gorgeous and talented date, Marlee Jane Ward. I drank whiskey with fancy people from New York and had lunch with one of the most brilliant young writers I have ever met. There’s no way for me to talk about great it was without bragging endlessly and sounding like a name-dropping fool, so I’m just gonna say: anything that caught my attention this month had a lot of competition for my time.

With that in mind: I fucking ADORED this found-object style story from powerhouse Nino Cipri. I have specific weaknesses for certain elements of this story: cursed places, difficult relationships, bright and burning love up against terrible odds. But it’s not just that. Nino’s skill in scares is prodigious, sketching just the best and barest details to terrify the reader, like unexplained scars. Like a voice from nowhere that won’t stop calling you home. The starts and stops are perfect: they know exactly where to cut you off so that you can’t see what’s beyond the rise. The love in it is so achingly real that every obstacle felt like a kick in the gut. It’s so brilliantly millennial and unapologetic in its weirdness: imagine collecting an ethnography of the people that you sleep with.

Now imagine the ethnography is haunted.

Go read it.  

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I didn’t expect to like A. Merc Rustad’s “The Gentleman of Chaos” at first. Its prose is extremely precise, almost to the point of being prissy. It leans heavily into some of the genre tropes of high fantasy that I personally enjoy the least, and it sketches its setting in a decadent, indulgent way. I nevertheless found myself wrapped in spider silk by every line, unable to get away until this story sucked me dry. It did that rare trick of using those same genre tropes to tell an utterly new story, and to give the reader a satisfying twist. I ended up sending it to everyone I know, and now I’m telling you. This story is gorgeous, meticulous, and gleaming. It’s a radioactive Swiss watch. It’s a jackalope in captivity. It turns as sharply as a tango, and will leave you just as breathless.

I love essays. I love drinking. I love essays about drinking. Kristi Coulter’s alcoholic autobiography is like that bartender’s trick where an entire rainbow comes out of a single cocktail shaker; there is much here that I did not expect. The strength of her writing about Old Fashioneds and wine and meeting the same boy across several years of parties was enough to convince me to buy her book, “Nothing Good Can Come of This.” I have to admit that the book was something of a disappointment. I can take a memoir aimed at sobriety; I have no tolerance for the drudgery and cliches of long-distance running. That’s me; your mileage may vary. Coulter can sure as hell write.

I just love interviews with women who have gotten to the point in life when they are absolutely out of fucks to give. I am not yet there. When I worry that I am too foul-mouthed and blunt, I look to Kathleen Turner and I cross myself. She shows me the way.  

Some authors struggle to say as much in a hundred thousand words as a writer like Nibedita Sen can say in less than a thousand. I don’t want to give too much away, and this will only take you a few minutes to read. And they will be good minutes.

Many stories about the eventual betrayal of AI or the frightening expansion of dominion wielded by social media fall flat. They miss key dynamics and omit inconvenient elements. Domenica Phetteplace makes no mistakes. She gives us a cold-blooded future that we will still line up to buy. This story made me check my insta following and then cross myself; two things I never do.

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I read Samantha Irby’s “We Are Never Meeting in Real Life a couple of months ago and LOVED it. This month, I picked up “Meaty” on Audible and was shocked to discover that I liked it even better. The thing that compels me most in my own writing and often in the writing of others is the endless tragedy of life as a meat sack. Irby is unforgiving to her own meatsack, talking about her feral street-beast dentition and taking a deadpan inventory of every feature of her own body that she wishes she never had to expose to a new lover. Part auto-cringe, part laugh-out-loud, Irby says things nobody else will ever say. She’s a knockout writer and I’ll buy anything she puts out. You know why? Because bitches gotta eat.

 

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