Zoli­tude

The Walrus - - WALRUS READS - by paige cooper

in her de­but col­lec­tion of short sto­ries, Paige Cooper uses out­landish set­tings to fore­ground the com­plex­i­ties of hu­man re­la­tion­ships. In “Spi­der­hole,” a for­mer sol­dier stuck in a dy­ing re­la­tion­ship va­ca­tions at acoastal re­sort, but the unas­sum­ing gives way to the cu­ri­ous when it’s ca­su­ally re­vealed that di­nosaurs are the des­ti­na­tion’s fea­ture en­ter­tain­ment. The nar­ra­tor is dis­gusted when he sees a tourist rid­ing a T. Rex — the mon­ster is so big that “the size of it bombs his brain twice.” Juras­sic Park comes to mind, but Cooper man­ages to push her story, bru­tally and ex­pertly, past the es­tab­lished lim­its of strange­ness. “Mo­riah,” mean­while, fol­lows a band of men, all pari­ahs due to their records of sex­ual as­sault, who have qui­etly taken up res­i­dence in the tit­u­lar town. Their so­lace is a weekly visit from a li­brar­ian, a woman also named Mo­riah. Cooper’s twist: an enor­mous “sav­age bird” pre­sides over the com­mu­nity, and she can be sum­moned — and sent into a frenzy — by the sound of a steam whis­tle that is, in­ci­den­tally, un­der Mo­riah’s care.

Fan­tas­ti­cal de­tails aside, each of Zoli­tude’s four­teen sto­ries ex­plores in­ti­macy as a ba­sic need and the ways love can be ar­tic­u­lated, per­ceived, and frus­trated. The re­sult is a col­lec­tion that is of­ten as­ton­ish­ing and oc­ca­sion­ally crests the ex­tra­or­di­nary.

— Cody Klip­pen­stein

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