Vol. XXIX , #2 Herman Melville's ; or The Whale
Edited by Damion Searls
Review of Contemporary Fiction
I Go To Some Hollow, by Amina Cain
Reviewed by A D Jameson
Intro. Bhanu Kapil. Les Figues Press, 2009. 108 pp. Paper: $15.00.
Cain's first book presents fifteen stories that veer between the realist and the absurd. None of them form complete narratives, and nearly all of them end abruptly, just as they seem to be starting—but in Cain's hands, such open-endedness quickly becomes a strength. These are stories that express wonder at the world, and the author makes no pretense about being able to see things clearly, or in their entirety. Her voice, rather, delights in naivety: "Sometimes people die when they build houses. They fall off roofs or accidentally shock themselves when it rains on a drill." At times her tone juxtaposes subjects in a manner not unlike Donald Barthelme; at other times it leans more toward Amy Hempel, estranging by means of brevity. Meanwhile, the characters speak like refugees from a Nicholas Mosley novel: " 'How is he?’ she asked. / 'He’s hauling lumber on the farm,’ the doctor said. ‘He’s forgotten about you.’ " Binding the stories together is a small list of recurring subjects—relationships, animals, concentration, the way bodies move through space—all rendered in a clear, penetrating language that routinely settles on incisive images: “The moon shone on Rosita’s lobster.” “That night a large hole opened up next to the cabin.” “Our grandfather lives in a hospital in Montana where the snow is heavy and disastrous to small cars and women riding horses.” Cain’s debut demonstrates that when the clichéd expectations of traditional narrative are gently omitted, what’s left is a calming stillness, and startling language—a welcome relief from the ironic realism that characterizes so much young contemporary fiction. We need more writing like this.