Reviews for Lauren Beukes’ brilliant collection SLIPPING: STORIES, ESSAYS, & OTHER WRITING keep coming.
For the NEW YORK JOURNAL OF BOOKS, Robert Schaefer praises the book.
It has been said that short stories are unprofitable but of value for authors who are exploring a range of techniques and styles. That is the case for this collection, though what is consistent throughout is Beukes’ word play and vivid imagery. This author certainly has an ear, a sense of how words sound and her prose can be quite poetic; as such, SLIPPING can be read just for the beauty of the English language.
SLIPPING has been organized into two sections. The first contains Beukes’ works of fiction and the second is very short, only 30 pages of nonfiction: essays and interviews. The essays are of value in that they explain to the reader just who Lauren Beukes is. One is a memoir of the author as professional journalist. Another is an interview of a South African high court judge, and in the interview the reader might be reminded of the fierceness of journalist of Oriana Fallaci. For readers who are already familiar with Beukes’ work, there is an essay that lays out Beukes’ intent in the construction of THE SHINING GIRLS and ZOO CITY.
Based on Beukes’ brilliant collection of short stories, one looks forward to her next novel, even if its genre does happen to be (ugh) science fiction.
BLUE BOOK BALLOON enjoys the collection.
I mostly knew of Beukes as the author of smart, twisted SF or fantasy – though it was clear from THE SHINING GIRLS that she was also a committed journalist – and I certainly hadn’t read any of her short fiction. So this collection was enlightening in a number of ways.
Similarly, this book explores the boundaries of the weird, the fantastical, the outrageous, from an obsessed stalker who’s invaded her girlfriend’s home (‘Dear Mariana’) to an occupying army carrying out torture on captive aliens (‘Unaccounted’) to a fraud perpetrated by 419 scammers (‘Easy Touch’). In some of these you can see ideas developing that resulted in full length novels – part of the background of ‘Zoo City’ was those same scammers, and ‘Branded’ reads like backstory to ‘Moxyland’. Others are standalone (or haven’t resulted in full length books yet…) or experimental: a collection of microstories written as tweets (‘Litmash’), the story of someone calling random numbers and trying to impose a structure on the results (‘Dial Tone’), a tale (‘Algebra’) told in 26 sections, one for each letter of the alphabet.
That idea – the twistedness behind the way things are – is a common motif, many of the stories touching on themes of, especially, race (how could they not) but generally obliquely. There’s the determined woman who makes her living selling ‘smileys’ (cooked sheeps’ heads) who has a spot of bother with a veteran of the Struggle. There are references (again in both the fiction and non-fiction) to the different districts, often close beside each other, the vastly different yet intertwined lives. Safe and dangerous places. But it’s more I think about atmosphere and influence than straight reporting – a chilling account of a surveillance state run in the name of law and order, or that torture prison for ‘aliens’ (they’re ‘not human’ so can they be dehumanised?) So many themes, so many ideas – reading this book is like turning a Kaleidoscope round and round.
Some of the influences may be hinted at in the origins of the stories – written for a wide range of publications (an erotic collection here, the Big Issue there, by way of annuals and themed anthologies). But – unless I’m missing something – Beukes hasn’t let her vision be unduly trammelled by the such commissions. There’s a unity of vision and tone that builds through the volume, despite (or because of?) the wide ranging nature of the material.
An engaging collection, whether or not you’re read the novels, and I hope hinting at still more strangeness to come soon from this most compelling writer.
Christian Endres at the German language site DIE ZUKUNFT lauds the book.
In the fiction and non-fiction texts in SLIPPING, the successful Ms. Beukes takes us to their South African homeland as well as into the universe and shows in their often strikingly short stories their great writing and narrative. In addition, for example, the first journalistic text of her career and a letter to her daughter.
(Translated from German by Google)
POP.EDIT.LIT includes SLIPPING among #5BOOKS: BOOK RECS THAT DON’T HAVE THE XMAS SPIRIT.
Ahhh, searching out South African urban fantasy writers brought me to ZOO CITY and Lauren Beukes, and now this collection of stories which go from Johannesburg to outer space, and involve a ghost messing with an architect`s life and a fighter pilot rescues Tokyo from a marauding art installation… yes, and art installation. How does an art installation go marauding? I don’t know, but I would like to find out.
STARSHIPSOFA No 461 features an audio version, narrated by Heather Simmons, of Beurkes’ “The Green.”
Originally published in ARMORED, edited by John Joseph Adams.
The story will also appear in Lauren’s upcoming short fiction and essay collection, SLIPPING, published in late November.
For more information about SLIPPING: STORIES, ESSAYS, & OTHER WRITING, visit the Tachyon page.
Cover art by Clara Bacou
Design by Elizabeth Story