The Walrus


- 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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