Additional Book Information
Publication Date: November 1, 2013
by Amina Cain
Amina Cain is a beautiful writer. Like the girl in the rearview mirror in your backseat, quiet, looking out the window half smiling, then not, then glancing at you, curious to her. That is how her thoughts and words make me feel, like clouds hanging with jets, and knowing love is pure.
[Amina Cain’s characters] are like people who have narrowly escaped disaster. Shell-shocked and clothed in tatters, they slip away to a quiet place—not to escape the feeling of having survived something extraordinary but to nurture it.
—Los Angeles Times
To be among Amina Cain’s creatures is to stand in the presence of what is mysterious, expansive, and alive. Whether these distinctly female characters are falling in and out of uncanny intimacies, speaking from the hidden realms of the unconscious, seeking self-knowledge, or becoming visible in all their candor and strangeness, they move through a universe shaped by the gravitational pull of elusive yet resilient forces—the yin-dark energies of instinct and feeling that animate creative life. It’s here that the intuitive reach of fiction meets the reader’s own quest for understanding, through the subtle beauty of living the truth of one’s experiences in the most attentive and unadorned way possible.
Cain captures a particular kind of attempt at happiness: trying to be easy on oneself; praying at a Zen monastery; focusing on small pleasures like orchids and neatly folded towels. Perhaps that’s why, in both form and content, so much here is microscopic, with a delicate sadness infusing mundane activities like bathing, spilling olive oil, and touching a wall . . . Cain’s tone—unknowing, exhibiting the most awed reverence toward the smallest details of life and thought—remains wonderfully effective throughout.
Cain’s characters seem to live accidentally, stumbling into or out of vaguely defined situations—a cut on a hand, a stay at a monastery, a visit to a what? a ranch? a corral? The haphazardness of the narratives, the hesitance of the narrator, and the refusal to do more with the material offered, coalesce into a finely composed absence, a vast negative space around a spare, almost negligible frame. . . . [Cain’s] unsentimental writing also exposes a world of sentiment, so that [her] play with form opens into a depth of emotional engagement.
To know what it is to know is possibly the hardest thing to achieve on the page; for a book to move from language to cognizance to real life body and soul skin and bones. Creature, Amina Cain’s second collection of short stories, is a book that bears such magic, and I can say that I can feel it in my skin and bones. Amina’s stories are quiet and vibrant, each revealing the hidden trauma of its characters or narrators so casually, it magnifies the terror. There is always something underneath the surface in her prose, that softly explodes in its own intimate magnitude, her sentences pitch-perfect crescendos.
Cain’s remarkable ability to render thoughts and observations simply and precisely carries the reader. Each scene accrues a rising sense of tension as it continues, without any sort of narrative twist or jut, and no reliance on internet memes or name brands for content. There’s not a sense of obsession with the self as much as there is a sense of the self unharbored, left living in a strangely ageless world somewhere between Emily Dickinson and David Lynch.
We’d read anything Dorothy puts out, so well-curated is the micro-publishing company (releasing only two new books every fall), but we’re especially excited for this story collection by the gifted Los Angeles writer of I Go to Some Hollow.
Cain takes a lot of risks in her book by redefining plot and creating so many narrators who are unknowable and generally unfamiliar. But the risks pay off in sheer beauty, and in Creature, she has created a beautiful monster indeed.
Amina Cain’s stories are quiet. Her characters—can I call them creatures?—live in a suspended, in-between space, hovering on the edge of self-realization.
Cain has that rare and glorious knack of the perfect last line—one after another, her drily funny, mysterious, and beautiful stories end with a knife straight to the heart.
What impresses me about Cain’s writing is her ability to say so much in such small and quiet spaces. Her stories are very short, some only two–three pages, and yet she writes in a way that feels so expansive and uncontainable. They are the type of stories that would collapse in on themselves if allowed to continue for longer, and that, I think, is what gives them so much power. In a world of endless opportunities to share our every unfiltered thought it is refreshing to see someone doing more with less. And doing it well.