THE BABYSITTER AT REST by Jen George

THE BABYSITTER AT REST

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KIRKUS REVIEW

In this surgical examination of being young, female, and unfulfilled, debut author George employs not just a scalpel, but a whole kit of ominous and eerily specific instruments.

Acerbic and sly, this five-story collection explores the elaborate performance of identity and the palliative comfort of opting out of self-obsessed scenesterism, giving a knowing flick of the hand to artistic imitators and impostors alike. Plunging up to her elbows into the morass of (post)modern living, George picks apart things often mistaken for love (desperation, fearful neediness, projected desires, ego propping) and maturity (partnering, parenting, settling into a beige-and-vanilla existence after a clean break with youthful pursuits). Details accumulate haltingly, stepwise, like bits of a dream remembered upon waking, even as they threaten to slip from the dreamer's grasp, and George walks us through a thick fog with a dim flashlight alongside characters who can't quite apprehend the rules of the familiar-but-foreign places into which they've been flung. In "Guidance/The Party," a woman is brusquely prepped by a recondite entity, known only as "The Guide," for an adulthood more like an afterlife than a continuation of her earlier existence. In the title story, a cross between a reincarnation tale, an anxiety dream, and a particularly prurient version of “The Sims,” the narrator is given the chance to start over—from where, what, and by whom is never revealed—as a young woman of uncertain age in a place like a spurious micronation on the cusp of collapse. Though George occasionally dips into gratuitous weirdness and has a tendency toward list-making that can become tedious, overall these stories satisfy as they spit out one sardonic insight after the next. Take "Futures In Child Rearing," on the confusion, anxiety, and pressures that surround procreation: "I'm trying to have a baby. I'd like to name her Ocean, but I fear the implications: the void, the vast emptiness, the unknown, big whale shits, giant octopuses, or other possible hentai tentacle situations. I put my finger in the ovulation machine: Transaction Declined, it reads on the screen." By the final story, "Instruction," we can't be sure if we've been given a glimpse into a future where our absurdities have played out to their furthest extremes or perhaps the actual present, only we haven't quite realized yet the extent of our collective abjection.

A headlong charge through the process of becoming—an artist, an adult, a nobody, something, anything.

Pub Date: Oct. 17th, 2016
Page count: 168pp
Publisher: Dorothy
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 2016




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