Eleven stories laced with humorous developments, mythic tendencies, and magical realist premises.
Ausubel (Sons and Daughters of Ease and Plenty, 2016, etc.) is, at heart, a fabulist, and the current collection puts this impulse in the forefront. The stories are grouped in four sections with geographical names—Bay of Hungers, The Cape of Persistent Hope, The Lonesome Flats, and The Dream Isles. Among the “hungers” is a funny piece previously published in the New Yorker: an online dating profile filled out by a Cyclops. It is followed by a more melancholy tale: a woman’s mother is inexorably fading away—not metaphorically, but actually disappearing. Third is “Template for a Proclamation to Save the Species,” in which a Midwestern mayor tries to address his town’s declining population by declaring a designated sex day and offering a prize—a tiny white Ford economy car—for babies born exactly nine months later. The stories in the next section continue the baby theme. “Mother Land” seems to be about the sister of the woman whose mother faded away, though this appears to be the only such linkage among the stories. She has a baby with a white African man, in Africa, and feels very cut off from her real life. In “Departure Lounge,” a woman quits her job as chef to a space program project being carried out on the crater of a volcano in Hawaii to attempt to get pregnant with an old college boyfriend. It turns out high-tech measures will be required. Many of the stories are both interesting and amusing; some are a little juvenile, like “Remedy,” a silly yarn about lovers whose doomed love drives them to have a transplant operation. But this is followed by one of the gems of the collection, "Club Zeus," narrated by a young man who works at a mythology-themed resort. “Most of the staff is Ukrainian, but I’m from California. My job is to be the Wizened Storyteller…. I sit in a hut all day and tell Greek myths to whoever comes in.”
Clever literary games.