Come Let Us Sing Anyway by Leone Ross

There were some real standouts here, but I think as a whole, this was a 3-star collection for me.

Come Let Us Sing Anyway is a classic Leone Ross work, filled with vibrant, diverse stories with equally vibrant and diverse characters. There are shorter stories and there are longer ones, but in all of them, Ross gives you a strong sense of narrative voice, of emotion, of personal history. My favourites were definitely “Minty Minty” and “And You Know This” (which was so poignant and beautifully written). Having read Ross’s recent novel Popisho, though, I can’t help but feel like Come Let Us Sing Anyway is its less luminous sibling. That’s not to say that the latter is bad, but just that Ross’s writing is so extraordinary when it’s longform rather than in short bursts–and some of these stories are short, sometimes only a page or two long. I always prefer longer short stories to shorter ones–just because we get to spend a little more time with the characters and, as a result, understand them better–so I think I also enjoyed this collection a little bit less because of the brevity of its stories.

Qualms aside, Leone Ross is one of the best writers working today, and I will always, always recommend that you read anything that she comes out with, whether short stories or a full-length novel.

Thank you so much to International Publishers Group for sending me a review copy of this in exchange for an honest review!

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Milk Blood Heat unfortunately proved to be a very forgettable read for me. It’s been a couple of months since I read this and I remember exactly zero of these stories, which is not a good sign lol. My lukewarm feelings about this collection ultimately come down to two key things:

1. The stories felt staid. The more stories I read from this collection, the more tiring I felt it became. And tired is not exactly something you want to feel when you’re reading anything. A lot of these stories felt too similar in that they were all pretty morose, and not in a particularly dynamic way. Every story I read felt like a slightly different version of the same Vague Malaise.

2. I really didn’t like how these stories ended. An ending can make or break a short story; it can clinch the tension it’s building, or just completely deflate it. The stories of Milk Blood Heat did the latter. They didn’t have abrupt endings so much as they had complete non-endings. I’d be reading a story, and it would be solid, and then it would just…terminate. Not in an understated or quiet or subtle way, but, like, in no way at all. It felt like such a waste to just completely deflate the tension of a story with a total subpar ending, to develop characters and plot and then leave the reader with nothing to hold on to in the end.

Thanks so much to Grove/Atlantic for providing me with an e-ARC of this in exchange for an honest review!

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I’m not sure why this book didn’t work for me like The Lonely City did. From what I’d read of its synopsis, Everybody seemed like it was poised to be a new favourite–a series of essays exploring the body and its relation to politics and liberation? Yes please. It sounded so good, and it’s not that it was bad, exactly, it just didn’t leave any kind of impression on me. I think this is partly because I didn’t care all that much about the principal figure of this book, Wilhelm Reich. Laing explores so many people’s lives in Everybody–Susan Sontag, Nina Simone, Malcolm X, Andrea Dworkin–but her focus always goes back to Reich, and I just wasn’t all that drawn to him as a subject of analysis.

Another thing is that these essays felt a little scattered in their focus. The Lonely City worked so well for me because each of its chapters was dedicated to a historical figure, and as such devoted the time to properly exploring that figure’s life. That’s not to say that Everybody needed to be written like The Lonely City, but just that the latter’s format worked so much better than the former’s. The essays in Everybody often flitted from one figure to another, trying to ground them all under the same set of themes. But though I appreciated Laing’s attempts to draw on the commonalities between these figures, I would’ve liked more on fewer figures rather than a little on many figures.

Thanks so much to W. W. Norton & Company for providing me with an e-ARC of this in exchange for an honest review!

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