Parkison gifts us with deeply imagined, and often fantastic landscapes, straight from the heart of her unique imagination, but these are always, in part, sharp commentaries on the world we have to inhabit in our daily lives. Parkison’s satirical embrace, and always beautiful language, leaves you more awake to the world and unsettled in all the right ways.
Refrigerated Music for a Gleaming Woman
Winner of the FC2 Catherine Doctorow Innovative Fiction Prize
A darkly comical horror lurks beneath the surface of everyday events in Refrigerated Music for a Gleaming Woman, a seductively poetic story collection of unusual brilliance and rare humor.
In Aimee Parkison’s Refrigerated Music for a Gleaming Woman, lovers find unexpected romance in cramped spaces, fast food addicts struggle through cheeseburger addiction, and the splendor of nature competes with the violence of television. All the while, a complicated and precarious present dawns onto a new world where wealthy women wear children’s eyes as jewelry and those in need of money hawk their faces only to forever mourn what parts of themselves they have sold to survive.
Open the refrigerator door. Inside are antique jars. Open them to hear the music: Beethoven playing piano; slaves singing for freedom in plantation fields; mothers humming lullabies through the night to smallpox babies, knowing this song is the last sound their children will ever hear.
As Stephen Graham Jones notes in his foreword to this prize-winning collection, “The best books … fold you into a darkness sparkling with life. They lock you in the refrigerator but they also pipe in some music that never repeats, and when the door starts to open, you cling tight to it, so you can have just a few minutes more. This book, it’ll be over far too fast for you, yes. But even were it five times as thick as it is now, it would still be too short. Remember, though, the best books, they’re loops. They never stop. This one still hasn’t, for me.”
Parkison makes absurd that which is commonplace by twisting it into abnormality. Lyrical and often abstract, these seemingly linked stories call attention to the grotesque in modern society.… Although both the message and the writing are sometimes heavy-handed, it is effective. One is moved equally by the lyricism and repulsiveness and can find beauty in both. A poetic and purposefully perverse collection of stories that describes a dystopian world only slightly divergent from our own.
Aimee Parkison is a shrewd, fiery, wildly poetic, politically astute writer of fiction. With Refrigerated Music for a Gleaming Woman, Parkison gifts us with deeply imagined, and often fantastic landscapes, straight from the heart of her unique imagination, but these are always, in part, sharp commentaries on the world we have to inhabit in our daily lives. Parkison’s satirical embrace, and always beautiful language, leaves you more awake to the world and unsettled in all the right ways.
In Aimee Parkison’s ingenious collection, words and images ricochet off the walls of the page, defying logic and gravity to expose reality’s invisible footing. A kind of feminist Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque, Parkison’s reinvented fables, ghost tales, and murder mysteries demonstrate how absurdist extremes clear a space for the most potent polemic. Only by turning the world on its head can we see it aright: here are recognitions, simultaneously hilarious and grave.
… these stories stage a break-in and dare the reader to imagine what it would take for women and girls to break out of the very narratives that keep us caged. A triumph of the imaginal in the face of a culture that would see us silenced, dead, and gone.
Aimee Parkison & Carol Guess
A dark yet playful collection of short stories that pushes boundaries and blurs the lines between the real and surreal.
Girl Zoo is an enthralling and sometimes unsettling collection of short stories that examines how women in society are confined by the limitations and expectations of pop culture, politics, advertising, fashion, myth, and romance. In each story, a woman or girl is literally confined or held captive, and we can only watch as they are transformed into objects of terror and desire, plotting their escape from their cultural cages.
Taken as a whole, this experimental speculative fiction invites parallels to social justice movements focused on sexuality and gender, as well as cautionary tales for our precarious political movement. Parkison and Guess offer no solutions to their characters’ captivity. Instead, they challenge their audience to read against the grain of conventional feminist dystopian narratives by inviting them inside the “Girl Zoo” itself.
Take a step inside the zoo and see for yourself. We dare you. Behind the bars, a world of wonder awaits.
Guess and Parkison have written a guidebook for a zoo that needs to be recognized as real. Though Girl Zoo does rely on the word Girl to sell itself, the work is perhaps exempt from the critique that it capitalizes on a trend. For in its pages, text has been lent to an otherwise textless place.
Part dark angry fairytales, part avant-gothic myths, part surreal fever dreams, and always genuinely unique, Girl Zoo is a remarkable collaborative collection of concentrated narraticules about 56 captive women who are the same woman, not the same woman, and not not the same woman. Aimee Parkison and Carol Guess explore the thematics of the commodified and controlled female subject, complicating the problem, nuancing it, metaphorizing it so the reader sees it always anew, yet never offering any easy way out. The rhythms, syntax, vocabulary, and meta-logic feel childlike, yet the content remains relentlessly bloody, violent, somehow naively (and, of course, not naively at all) dangerous to the bone.
Girl Zoo is a breathtaking journey inside the cold hard facts of gender and sexual incarceration. Taking the “woman as object” trope to its logical extreme, these stories stage a break-in and dare the reader to imagine what it would take for women and girls to break out of the very narratives that keep us caged. A triumph of the imaginal in the face of a culture that would see us silenced, dead, and gone. Read these girls, change your life.