The Trojan War Museum: and Other Stories: Bucak, Ayse Papatya:  9781324002970: BooksWow. What to say about this stunning and innovative collection of short stories…

Perhaps my biggest impression of these stories is how much heft they have. Every single one of Bucak’s stories is fleshed out and complex, with a real depth to both its narrative and its characters. And because of this, they work on almost every single level. Firstly, I cannot overstate the rich diversity of these stories, both in terms of theme and plot. There is “Little Sister and Emineh,” a tale of two girls who find each other in the midst of the Chicago World Fair in 1893; “A Cautionary Tale,” a tale-within-a-tale that manages to deftly examine xenophobia and the often Orientalist lens with which many stories are read by the West; “The Trojan War Museum,” a masterful exploration of the toll of war and violence and what they mean when they become enshrined in a place like a museum.

Secondly, and what was much more impressive to me, is that these stories were so emotionally powerful. I remember I was enjoying “Little Sister and Emineh” as I was reading it and then I got to the ending and it absolutely floored me; I almost cried. By the time I got to the last story in the collection, “A Gathering of Desire,” I just fully cried at the end. I’ve read full novels that haven’t so much as made me feel sympathy for their characters and here is Bucak making me cry in the span of a single short story. She’s just that good.

In her acknowledgements at the end of this book, Bucak writes that this collection has been in the works for over 10 years, and let me tell you, IT SHOWS. This is a confident, rich, and beautiful short story collection that I would recommend to anyone who is looking for a good story, period.

(Also can I just say that I’m in love with this cover????)


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Image result for This Is How You Lose the Time War COVER“Words can wound—but they’re bridges, too . . . Though maybe a bridge can also be a wound? To paraphrase a prophet: Letters are structures, not events. Yours give me a place to live inside.”

This is How You Love This Book:

You start reading it and it’s this cat-and-mouse back-and-forth between two women from two opposing sides of a time war, of all things. But what begins as an adversarial, albeit playful, show of bravado unfurls into something unexpected: a connection. It is a thread that is tenuous, unsure of its presence, but present nonetheless. And then the adversarial becomes symbiotic; these two women hold each other up in and through their letters. They are each other’s confessionals, writing and ciphering, deciphering and reading. The thread becomes taut, asserts its presence, makes itself known—that is to say, these two women fall in love.

Zoom out from the moving, almost effortless beauty of this story and you remember: oh yeah, we’ve got a time war on our hands. There are pasts to modify, futures to alter, courses of history to reroute, to nudge this way or that. This is not a metaphor; this is the world of these women. There is a war to win, agents to outsmart, rules to follow, secrets to keep.

The thing about This is How You Lose the Time War is that it does both those things simultaneously and masterfully; it is both the forest and the trees. You are so absorbed in the almost intoxicating intimacy of Blue and Red’s correspondence, the way they increasingly skirt closer to truths about themselves and what they mean to each other. But this is not happening in a vacuum: they live, after all, in a world where they weave and up down the course of time at their will, where what is at stake is the future of their respective sides. This is a world with its own terminology, its own tangled history, its own rules and fine print. But you finish this novel having such a complete sense of both the trees and the forest; the searing closeness of its protagonists, but also the backdrop which has at once enshrined and obstructed this closeness. The more the trees of these characters grow taller, the more the forest sprawls like a carpet to ground them in their world. That is to say, this novel draws the contours of its world even as it colours in those contours with characters of vivid, layered interiorities.

Reader, I loved it.


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“It is easy to forget, but stories need not always have a purpose. We are quick to say that folktales have a moral or a lesson or a creed. But most of the stories that have survived the ages are told for one purpose only, and that purpose is to say this: ‘Being human is difficult. Here is some evidence.'”

Just absolutely exquisite storytelling. Drager has written a story about stories–in the moment of their telling and through time–and about the powerful bonds that tie siblings together. Her novel is sprawling and specific, widening and narrowing the scope of its story with beautiful fluidity. The biggest compliment I can give this book is, I would love to study it in class. Write essays about it. Talk about it with other people. It’s incredibly layered and genuinely meaningful, simple in a way that makes it affect you all the more.

“In order to record a tale, something must always be lost. Some things must be left unsaid and disguised. The art of storytelling, his brother said, is all about where and how to leave the voids.”

The Archive of Alternate Endings is by far the most surprising book of the year for me, not to mention a severely underrated one. I picked it up expecting nothing at all and finished it knowing it was a new favourite. I want to reread it already.


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