It’s the end of the year and I’m running on empty, but I enjoyed Julie Koh’s collection of short stories, ‘Portable Curiosities’, released this year through UQP, so here’s a real short review because a) UQP is an awesome publisher and deserves all the coverage it can get, b) the book was good and c) look at the cover. Look at the COVER! Amazing .
‘Portable Curiosities’ is the perfect name for this book because almost every story is truly a curiosity, something you can pick up and look at from a number of angles and each time glean something new.
The stories are all absurdist and satirical: a ‘yellow’ man jumps out of film and abandons his screen life as a 1D plot device to become a three dimensional and complex human being (I particularly liked that one). I also really enjoyed ‘Cream Reaper’, about a new artisanal ice cream flavour that has a 50/50 chance of killing you, and ‘Sight’, about a young girl who is forced by her parents to have her third eye, located in her belly button, removed. In others sometimes the allegorical element felt a little obvious but since for the much of time Koh’s subjects include sexism and racism, I didn’t really mind. Because these are important things to talk about and much of the world still doesn’t get that.
The writing style is excellent – very clean, sharp, spare and declarative, but exceptionally powerful at the same time. In fact, the writing style was the main reason I kept returning to this book. I suppose the only reason I didn’t give this a four or even a five star rating on Goodreads (I gave it a three) was because it didn’t really grab me emotionally, that is it didn’t get me in the guts at all – I though I enjoyed it on an intellectual level. Will definitely continue to read this author.