New York–based author Core (Veronica Beach, 2015) has put together a striking debut collection of 19 short stories revolving around sexuality and city life.
Core’s book opens with “Hog for Sorrow,” the tale of two women who moonlight as prostitutes for extra cash while systematically avoiding the feelings they have for each other. The characters are sassy, eccentric, and never afraid to speak their minds: “It was like he wanted me to be dead. Like I was interfering with my potential hotness by living….I hate this neighborhood….I hate every single person,” one of them says. Scenarios like these set the tone for the rest of the collection, which includes—but is not limited to—a recovering alcoholic craving companionship, a married couple on the brink of collapse, two women navigating through their age gap, and George Harrison featured in the most unusual way. Core is a master raconteur and organizes all of her tales around objects and places (most take place in a bedroom or in transit); she captures a quintessential New York cynicism—one punctuated with hopeless romanticism, stress, and hyperstimulation. But the cynicism also produces pure moments of bliss: “This is what it means…to be the keepers of something beautiful….They thought about what they had been when they stood next to each other. Freaks, strutting their base interests. But now, next to the dog, they lost their queerness, if only for a moment.” While the stories naturally give life to different characters, the text is successfully self-reflexive enough to harness a uniform voice that jumps from scene to scene, and the reader never lets go and never opts out of the ride.
Entrancing, subtle, and tragically poetic, this collection is an important contribution to queer literature.