09 March 2010

Book Review: Black Juice

Title:  Black Juice
Author:  Margo Lanagan
Published:  Pages: 227
Short Stories

Buy  |  Borrow  |  Accept  |  Avoid

I will not write a true review this book for a variety of reasons. For the life of me, I can not figure out how to discuss the stories within this collection, not only because to do so would mean spoiling the plot, but also I can not figure out how to summarize the plots.  For certain inclusions in the book, if I were asked what the story was about, I would be left with a blank expression on my face, no words on my lips, but a very specific feeling inside.

That is the crux of the matter.  While Lanagan may not offer a tidy story with a beginning, middle, and end and while you may not even really understand what happened in the pages you've just read, you certainly do know how it felt to read that particular story.  This feeling may be indescribable, but it is no less real.  I found this an odd reading experience, enjoyable but mildly frustrating.

Stories would begin and end without me having a clear picture of the reasons things were happening or where things were headed after the story ended.  A few times while reading, I found myself thinking of Tralfalmadorian writing.  Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five features an alien race who when they write do so in "brief, urgent messages" with no real connection from one to the next, no backstory or story arc, just a snapshot of a moment in time.
There isn’t any particular relationship between all the messages, except that the author has chosen them carefully, so that, when seen all at once, they produce an image of life that is beautiful and surprising and deep. There is no beginning, no middle, no end, no suspense, no moral, no causes, no effects. What we love in our books are the depths of many marvelous moments seen all at one time
For me, Black Juice meets the criteria; each story is a snapshot, displaced from its context, but still offering a small nugget of truth.

Other Reviews
If I've missed yours, let me know

things mean a lot; Reading Rants; Finding Wonderland;

Question:  Can you think of any other stories/collections that are brief, urgent messages rather than your typical tidy plots?

Challenges: 100+ Reading Challenge, Reading Resolutions, YA Reading Challenge


  1. I've only read one of the stories in here, but I'm looking forward to more!

  2. You might like "St Lucy's Home for Girls Raised By Wolves" by Karen Russell, one of my favorite short story collections.

  3. I have this on my list and I also heard that the book Gavin recommended is also excellent.

    I loved, loved Tender Morsels. I just finished it and have given it 5 stars.

    This particular cover is gorgeous. I am glad you included it.

    How to write reviews without spoilers is a big question - and with a book with short stories... how do you write reviews at all...

  4. I read this last year, and I totally agree about it being a feeling that's most important. Singing My Sister Down haunted me for weeks!
    The Other two I remember vividly were the one about elephants and the clown story. (can't remember the titles of those though)

  5. OK. Not only is your review enticing that cover - WOW!

  6. Everyone - If you haven't read this and want to, I'm giving it away in a couple weeks. After the first giveaway of Drama is done!


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