Duos of all kinds knock up against one another in this collection from Mirolla (The Giulo Metaphysics III, 2013, etc.).
Relationships are fraught, complicated creatures, whether they’re between lovers, family members, or friends. In this collection, these couplings are explored one pairing at a time: sister and sister, sister and brother, brother and brother, daughter and father, father and son, and so on. In “Sons and Mothers,” an unreliable man self-reports his own family history while a psychiatric expert analyzes testimonies from the patient’s friend and mother. Two cohabiting sisters are on a crash course over a man in “Sister and Sister.” In “Daughters and Fathers,” the daughter of a famous writer, from whom she is estranged, wastes away in an asylum. There is much to admire about a good formal constraint, a collection with a tight unifying theme, thematic subheadings, use of artifacts, and metafictional flourishes. But while this collection includes all of these elements and more, the result is less high-wire artistry and more fragmented mess. Occasionally there is a lovely detail, a paragraph of character and action, or an interesting thought, but then everything—including the relationships that should be the beating hearts of the stories—is washed away by the author’s voice. That voice dominates and consumes the narrative, flattening each story’s potential life. As a result, they all sound the same. There is quite a bit of wordplay, including an irritating tic where an idea is stated and restated (sometimes more than once) for no apparent reason, but these moments of cleverness rarely work and never seem to match the mood or characters. Some books demand more of their audience than the average text, but this book demands too much; it rejects and rebuffs the reader at every turn.
A muddled, undercooked collection that does not live up to the promise of its conceit.