Teetering between the everyday and the surreal, Arndt’s debut collection investigates narratives of the queer body.
Many of the unnamed narrators in Arndt’s stories defy categorization. Even in their own thoughts, they skitter up to the boundaries of language and glance away, unwilling—or unable—to put a name to their identities. “I’m like a...you know,” attempts the narrator of “Been a Storm” during her brief roadside encounter buying fishing bait from two backwoods misfits. In the sardonic “Jeff,” a chance meeting with Lily Tomlin, who calls Jess by the wrong name, sets off an imaginary battle between Jess and Jeff, the alternative identity she both loathes and longs for. In “Third Arm,” the narrator obsesses over the feeling of “carrying around something that wasn’t mine,” while in “Together,” a couple deals with an intestinal parasite taking up room—literal and figurative—in the dregs of their relationship. Nothing in Arndt’s worlds is straight. Through the haze of alcohol or drugs or self-loathing hallucinations, characters elbow for space with frightening visions that exist just outside what is real. They morph into animals or become literal representations of figurative language; they flee the instability of inner turmoil only for their existential fears to manifest as larger-than-life visions. Reading Arndt is like walking toward a shimmering desert mirage and being met with a cloud of acid instead of an oasis of cool water. You’re not sure what just happened or whether you’re the same now that it’s over. Maybe you were never there to begin with.
A deeply transgressive, riveting shot out of the gate. Arndt is one to watch.