Cursed Bunny

These short stories are fucked up in the best possible way.

In trying to describe this collection, I find myself continually going back to the language of surgeries, operating rooms. Bora Chung’s stories are razor sharp in more ways than one. Her writing is exact, pared back, seemingly sanitized–but what it narrates is anything but. A story (“Snare”) will begin with a simple, “This is a story I once read long ago,” and then, couched in this fable-esque beginning, will proceed to give you a narrative about capitalism, greed, cannibalism, and abuse with almost surgical precision. It’s a testament to Chung’s control and skill as a writer that despite the seeming simplicity of her writing, her stories are not lukewarm but chilling. It’s the kind of writing that just works so well for a collection like this because it doesn’t try to adorn the story with what it doesn’t need; it instead lets each story stands on its own two feet, allowing it to effectively deliver whatever twisted, horrific, unsettling, or disturbing narrative it’s trying to present.

And let’s be clear, these stories are unsettling (to say the least). If we’re still going with the surgical imagery then: some stories nick and some stories slice; some dispense with just enough detail for the narrative to unnerve and then linger, and some are just full throttle, no holds barred. Regardless of how dark they are, though, Chung’s stories approach darkness in different ways, and they’re not all tragic, per se. Some stories–“Snare,” “Scars,” “Ruler of the Winds and Sands”–read like fables, like some dark fairytales lost in time. Others narrow their focus on the interpersonal, especially “The Head” and “The Embodiment,” which both foreground how women relate to their own bodily autonomy, or lack thereof. More broadly, though, I think these stories are interested in the ways that the supernatural–widely understood as encompassing things that are “not real,” whether magical beings or hungry monsters or ghosts–can interact with and distort already distorted human relationships. The supernatural in Cursed Bunny highlights the overlooked by making it literal, exaggerating it, placing it in unexpected contexts.

(Favourite stories include “The Embodiment,” “Cursed Bunny,” “Snare,” and “Scars.”)

Basically: this is an excellent and incredibly compelling short story collection. Bora Chung might be a new favourite author, and I can’t wait for more of her work to be translated into English (as it was Anton Hur’s translation of this was pitch perfect).

Thanks so much to Honford Star for sending me an e-copy of this in exchange for an honest review!

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BOOK REVIEW: LITTLE by EDWARD CAREY Little: A Novel (9780525534327): Carey, Edward: Books

This is easily my favourite novel of 2020. I loved it so, so much.

Edward Carey’s Little is the kind of novel that just ticks every single one of my boxes. To start, the writing is brilliant: it so effortlessly evokes a sense of historicity, bringing you into the late 1700s through its tone, its diction, its rhythm. But more than that, Carey’s writing is able to sharply capture the voice of its protagonist, Marie–and what a big-hearted and sympathetic character she is. Part of the brilliance of this novel is that you get to watch Marie grow up, following her pretty much from the moment she is born (she narrates her own birth, which is a trope I love) to when she is an old woman. And so you get to see Marie develop alongside the characters she finds herself attached to, and watch how the push and pull of those attachments alternately leave Marie alienated or supported. I cared so deeply about Marie: she is such a beautifully earnest character; she is smart and kind and gentle, and she wants so bad to prove her mettle, to be close to those she cares about. And yet so many times we see her marginalized, sent away, ignored, unacknowledged.

Scaffolding Marie’s character development is the most compelling and engrossing plot; it is not fast-paced so much as it is well-paced, taking us to various milieux, with plenty of twists and turns along the way to keep the narrative fresh and dynamic. And again, the writing is just gorgeous. Alternately whimsical, vivid, and affecting, giving you just enough character moments to be moving but always holding back at the right moments so as not to stray into sentimentality. It’s the perfect balancing act. (I was pretty much crying for the entirety of the last 20 pages.)

Little is, quite simply, the best story I read this year. I can give it no compliment higher than that.



Oh my GOD this book.

White Ivy is a book that I INHALED. This was one of the most compelling books I have read all year; every platitude about propulsive books applies here: I couldn’t put it down! It kept me up all night! I couldn’t wait to find out what happened next! I couldn’t stop turning the pages! (except I listened to the audiobook so maybe this one doesn’t quite apply). It was a page-turner in every sense of the word.

I don’t know how to put this in a less informal way, but this book was just so juicy: I was living for all the drama. The main character, Ivy, finds herself caught up in the world of the wealthy– and what a world it is, deluded and insipid and parochial, completely out of tune with the rest of the world. You get to follow Ivy as she tries to navigate the strange landscape of this world, and oh my god SO MANY THINGS HAPPEN. When I say “drama,” I mean drama. And not in a melodramatic or reality tv show kind of way, but in a way that makes sense in the context of the story and, specifically, in the context of Ivy’s character development. That’s what makes White Ivy such a brilliant novel: it gets to have all the narrative intrigue and surprise of a more outsized–and potentially more contrived–story whilst still maintaining the integrity of its characters and their development.

Also, Susie Yang’s writing is just pitch perfect. Her metaphors and similes work so effectively, always tilting or reframing a situation or moment in such a way that they become more layered, sometimes a little more clear and sometimes a little more opaque.

If this is Susie Yang’s debut novel, then I can’t even imagine what she has in store for us next.