Wednesday, November 12, 2014

"The Palace of Illusions," by Kim Addonizio

Hmmm. Lately I seem to have read -- without my planning it that way -- several short story collections that have an element of mystery, magic, the supernatural. San Francisco writer Kim Addonizio’s new story collection, “The Palace of Illusions” (Soft Skull Press, 2014), has an edginess partly derived from that sense of mystery, that presumption that anything can happen at any time. In the kind of fiction I am talking about, it is a fine line between things that happen because they are inevitable and things that happen that are supernatural. One story in this collection, “The Hag’s Journey,” is explicitly a fairy tale. Another, “Ever After,” is a modern day play on the “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves” story. Mostly Addonizio’s characters are outsiders, have had rough lives, but are still holding onto their illusions, even though those illusions are shattered again and again. These are characters who are strongly etched, and mostly sympathetic; the reader’s response is most often pity. The stories are generally about gritty situations, with carnivals, grim apartments, and storage units as obvious indicators of outsiderness. Another kind of outsiderness appears in “The Cancer Poems,” but this story is also one of the stories in this collection that amid sadness introduces a grace note, one that arises from human connection.

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