Essays, stories, and poems about power, from the personal to the political and back again.
This anthology covers a lot of ground—geographically, temporally, and emotionally. It begins in the 1970s, with editor Freeman reminiscing about his childhood, and ranges from Julia Alvarez’s defiant rewriting of Homer to Eka Kurniawan’s disheartening tale about an abused Indonesian monkey who, despite the cruelty of her master, still dreams of becoming a human being. Plus there’s a stop in France, where enfant terrible Édouard Louis blames “Macron, El Khomri, Hollande, Hirsch, Sarkozy, Bertrand, [and] Chirac” for his father’s wretched health (“The history of your life is the history of these people who have lined up to cut you down”), while in Canada, Margaret Atwood reports on a global outbreak of female lycanthropy: “Look at their red-rimmed paws! / Look at their gnashing eyeballs!…Hairy all over, this belle dame, / and it’s not a sweater.” So what if Freeman hasn’t pieced together a coherent anthology? With a word as famously amorphous as “power” for his theme, how could he? (In his introduction he writes that “Everything that was, I discovered, was enacted by power.” That doesn’t exactly narrow it down.) But Freeman assembles such a talented roster that it doesn’t ultimately matter; each contribution is good enough to keep the reader interested in what’s coming next. This is true right up to the last, and best, entry: a short story by the Japanese novelist Kanako Nishi. It is a master class on the subtle and shifting power dynamics between genders and generations.
A motley collection of superb writing.