Some Possible Solutions by Helen Phillips

Some Possible Solutions by Helen Phillips

Published by Deckle Edge (Henry Holt & Co.) on May 31, 2016
224 pages
Kindle format
Advance reading copy provided by the publisher
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After my experience with The Beautiful Bureaucrat last year (my thoughts here), I was extremely excited to see that author Helen Phillips would release a collection of short stories this year; not only am I a fan of her work, but I am also a big fan of well-written short stories.

How fragrant these foods had been when they were bestowed upon the cream-colored table cloths - the smell of butter, warmth, safety, joy. Yet now dark and disconcerting odors arose from the rejected food, the rot already encroaching. I had never before understood that the end of a feast is a funeral.

Had I not already been acquainted with Phillips' work, I might not have reacted as favorably to this collection; if she is a new author for you, however, this could be as good a place to start as any. This is what many would consider "dystopic fiction," of which I do not usually consider myself a fan; Phillips does it well and so much more. 

Wikipedia makes me feel safe and newspapers make me feel guilty. Facebook makes me want to change my life and Twitter makes me want to stay the way I am.

It's almost as if Phillips is able to stand outside of herself, as a human being, and reflect on the flaws that we are all carrying around from a very objective viewpoint; her characters are so malleable, yet rigid, and their dilemmas, while not something you might expect to face, are brilliantly relatable. 

She hid behind the idea that she alone had carried the dirty plates into the kitchen because she alone was a gracious dinner guest - a pleasing alternative to her knowledge that she alone had carried the plates into the kitchen because she alone did not belong here, among these dazzling, merciless people.

What I love about her work is that she takes the mundane, turns it on its head, and leaves readers wondering, "what if?" When I finish one of these stories I have to really sit back, let it air out, like a sip of wine, and think about all of the implications because there are so many "possible solutions." 

Other, terrible things had happened, but this was the worst: a Friday night and we had free tickets to either a 6:30 or 8:30 movie, so, after meeting on a frigid street corner beside a golden statue of either a pregnant woman or a bull, we went to the theater and discovered that one movie was about child prostitutes in Bangladesh and the other was silent.

While this work is not for everyone, since nothing is, I would highly recommend that you give it a try, especially if you enjoy the format. If you're familiar with short story collections like those of George Saunders or, one of my recent favorites, The Wonder Garden by Lauren Acampora (my thoughts here), you should definitely pick this one up as soon as you can. 

The scale

The scale

2016 Peace Love Goodwill Half Marathon

2016 Peace Love Goodwill Half Marathon