‘101’ by May-Lan Tan

I probably could have chosen any of the stories from this extraordinary collection. (For instance, I could happily have chosen ‘Julia K.’ simply on the basis of that one line — you know the one: ‘Language, as she deployed it, was neither a line cast nor a bullet fired. It was a catholic mechanism: the sharp twist of a pilot biscuit into the waifish body of Christ’). As it is, I choose this. I choose it because of the near total brilliance of its execution. The way, the more you read it, the more everything seems to slot into place, not neatly and tidily, but raggedly and bloodily; from the palindromic title — those two ones with nothing in between — to the playful, cutesy doubling, too self-consciously cool to be taken seriously, until it slowly resolves into something that cannot, by any measure, be taken lightly. Oh, and did I mention the language? Hell on earth, the language.

In Things to Make and Break (CB Editions, 2014)

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