BOYSGIRLS, by Katie Farris. Marick Press, 2011 (forthcoming). Review by Debrah Lechner.
BOYSGIRLS is a dizzying series of colorful gem-like stories, demon-and-fairy tales that present fabulous monsters that we’ve known existed all along. In fact, any of us might be one.
In the story “Mise en Abyme” the first line of the story is, “People are forever falling for the girl with a mirror for a face.”
In “The Girl who Grew” the first line is, “I know what I look like, lying in this muddy water, my toes and fingers as thick as the trunks of elephants, my eyes rusted almost shut with pondweed and petrified eyelashes.”
In “Her Mother’s Mother was a Machete” the first line is, appropriately enough, “Her mother’s mother was a machete.”
In “The Devil’s Face” the first line is, “The girl has been learning to shit on the devil’s face.” I rather like and will also quote another line in this story: “It is difficult, he explained, after a millennia of existence, to get off.”
These stories are from the “Girls” section. “Boys” is more of an extended parable, concerning a boy with one wing who is seeking flight. It’s a little more obviously empathetic, although empathy is without doubt present in all of Farris’s fiction. It’s beautiful. It escapes being pretty, fortunately. Farris took a risk including it. It might have undermined the fear and loathing, shock and awe that she so carefully cultivated in the “Girls” section.
Farris addresses the reader a couple of times, using a style that is overly polite and slightly antique. In the introduction, in this mannered language, she insolently promises to provide fiction that you will be forced to react to, something unique, something you will want to keep reading−and then she insolently makes good on that promise.
It is another testament to the potency of Farris’s fiction that its imagery is more brilliant than the ink drawings by illustrator Lavinia Hanachiuk. Yup, you get pictures too.
Unless you object to the fecally encrusted face of Satan, there’s nothing not to like here. I suggest getting a copy of BOYSGIRLS as soon as it is published. It is forthcoming this spring.
Katie Farris’s poetry, fiction and translations have been published in numerous journals. She is a Romanian-born ceramicist and photographer. She teaches Comparative Literature and Creative Writing at San Diego University.