Certain American States

The first sentence of the first story in Catherine Lacey’s first collection of short fiction, Certain American States, is 547 words long. (Actually, 548—but this sentence is so epic that nobody caught a missing word before printing. Whoops. The paperback, in which the sentence, I imagine, will be its full self, is due on August 13.)

Anyway, that sentence in “Violations” starts with a neurotic man’s fear that his ex-wife will write about him—but to ask her not to do so would set off a lecture, which would require a rebuttal, which would require her rebuttal, and before long there will be nothing to be done except for her to question the very nature of the self as an essentially static and knowable thing, and if it’s not, which it doesn't seem to be, because he has been truly awful to her (which she had not seen coming), then how could she possibly write about him, since clearly she had never known him at all?

A sentence in the next story, “ur heck box,” ends this way: “…(or maybe it was just the heedlessness I’d felt since Rae died, that impulse I had to move toward chaos before it could surprise me))).)”

The characters in these stories have a lot to figure out, but their efforts at introspection feel less like scaling a grand peak of revelation than falling down a well. PLEASE READ

Certain American States by Catherine Lacey, from FSG