This week we’re taking a closer look at Powell’s Pick of the Month Bliss Montage by Ling Ma.
I don’t remember a lot from the early days of COVID, but I do remember how many tweets I saw about the uncanniness of Ling Ma’s Severance
to the times: the emptying streets, how foreboding and freeing that emptiness could feel; the dread that built up the more silent everything else became; the growing distance between communications; the compounding absences. Which was why I avoided Severance
for so long. I avoided Severance
for years! Until a few months ago, when a friend texted me, “it’s so funny, you’ll love it,” and I thought “fine” and checked out a copy from the library.
My friend was right. I loved it. So when Ling Ma’s follow-up, the short story collection Bliss Montage
, was announced, I was all in. And then I got my hands on a copy and saw the blissfully
attractive cover and thought, “well, dang, I’m so all in, I might need to buy some flippers and one of those scuba machines.”
“Well, dang, I’m so all in, I might need to buy some flippers and one of those scuba machines.”
In Bliss Montage
, you’ll find a home filled with ex-boyfriends, toxic friendships and drugs, a yeti with a pamphlet on how to make love, secret worlds and the bores of academia. It’s a collection filled with stories at once familiar (the odd compulsion to follow a man home even after he’d emotionally and physically abused you? I mean, who wouldn’t) and uncanny.
One of my favorite parts of speculative writing is when it swerves through the fantastic, only to double back to something so alarmingly intimate that it cuts through skin and muscle to bone. Like the story about the narrator's mother and the narrator's storytelling, which pulls in layers of recitations and retellings, all as an attempt to better understand the person at the center of it, the person who gave birth to you and defies understanding. Or the sharp, plush fear of having a child you grew in your body start to exist outside of your body.
One of my favorite parts of speculative writing is when it swerves through the fantastic, only to double back to something so alarmingly intimate that it cuts through skin and muscle to bone.
I need to stop myself from listing off examples, though; if I don’t, I’ll just start reading you this incredible book that delivers on the promise of its cover: tart and sweet, juicy and portable. And, most of all: absolutely delicious.