These stories offer a vast, eclectic array of experience, depicted with the grit and incisiveness of a journalist who’s covered brutal events such as domestic violence, murder and war. Radish’s prose is a joy—energetic, attitudinal, often hilarious and perfectly suited to the anecdotal form. Having met a man claiming to be Jesus, for example, Radish quips, “Well, I’m not dressed for this encounter.” Readers become well-acquainted with the author’s oft-espoused “fearless broad” philosophy, and she’s at her best when recounting experiences in which she takes center stage. In “The Little Girl and the Tomatoes,” for example, she describes a childhood job in which she picked tomatoes in stultifying heat and how it engendered her lifelong sense of tenacity. In “Paper Clips, Two-Sided Paper, My Penis Please,” Radish recounts, with equal parts dark humor and rage, attending the funeral of an editor who sexually assaulted her under the guise of mentorship. However, the essays about marginalized individuals are less convincing, as they present the people almost entirely through Radish’s own perception, projecting attributes, pasts and even afterlives onto them instead of describing their own lived experience. An encounter with writer Eudora Welty, for example, is less about the woman herself than about Radish’s visceral reaction to Welty’s presence and advice, and in “Soldier Boy,” the author recounts a brief encounter with a young soldier about to go to war, imagining a hypothetical trajectory of his life and a detailed scenario for his death.
A bold, rollicking work that often reveals more about the author than her subjects.