Big Cats: Stories
by Holiday Reinhorn
A review by Georgie Lewis
Holiday Reinhorn's stories will invariably draw comparisons to assorted masters
of the short story form. She has a darkness reminiscent of Mary Gaitskill and
a flawless ability to inhabit the minds of the suburban disenfranchised that reminds
one of Raymond Carver. However, comparisons don't do this work justice because
there is nothing derivative here. Hers is a voice that is fresh, filled with wit,
often raw, and wholly her own.
There is such energy here -- at times the stories crackle with electricity
-- and she creates a range of atmospheres from malevolent to kinky, sullen to
subversive. Yet the characters are so fully fleshed out and unique that compassion
Interestingly enough, the stories often take place in an institutional setting:
a psychiatric hospital, a bank, a zoo. The titular story is a dynamic piece
about that curious blend of fierce love and rivalry that is practically a rite-of-passage
for adolescent girls. With the pent-up rage of teenage hormones and the back
drop of the lion's cage at the zoo, the two girls eventually explode. A garish
cat-fight results, fueled by class and sex, and the fury of youth.
With older characters the motivations are more disguised. Or even corrupt.
"Fuck You" is an extraordinary story; its perusal of exploitation
is creepily humorous. A pregnant woman's boredom leads to a teasing and provocative
interaction with a teenage little-leaguer. Controlling the boy and the situation
seems to be one of her motivations -- the others are more perverse.
The story "Good to Hear You" has a melancholic longing to it, achieved
by a cunning construction. A daughter describes her absent father's day with
a detailed certainty that convinces us of her need to dwell, dissect his day,
with the obsessive yearning of the neglected. The last sentence, however, changes
everything. Like many of Reinhorn's stories, the structure is brilliantly effective.
Occasionally I'm slightly uncomfortable with the way Reinhorn ends her stories,
a stylistic fastidiousness for dramatic closure that reminds me she is a product
of the Iowa Writers' Workshop. Whilst many graduates of Iowa are known for their
beautiful prose, I've often perceived, in the work that I have read, something
a little too studied or mannered in structure. But on the whole Reinhorn's work
doesn't read this way. It isn't indicative of this school and its trademark
style, although I will concede I experienced a slight affectation at the close
of a couple of these stories. Nonetheless, this is a quibble that I had to reach
for, frankly, in an attempt to quell my gushing.
Suffice it to say, this is a magnificent collection of stories from an original