Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 14 Jun 2019

Member Reviews

I had read a few of the author’s short stories in their collection “Heartbreaker” (really liked “Jailbait” from that collection) before requesting this title. There were some great stories in this collection (“Rag”) for me. (Favorites: “Her blood,” “Alice,” “Pool,” “Jury” “Viral” and “The Lover”) if this author’s on your radar like they were mine you probably will be happy with this collection even if every story doesn’t hit. I think more and more short fiction collections are becoming about “despicable” characters and darker side of sexuality/situations so for that reason I wish this collection could have been longer? (possibility of more “Standout” stories) to set it apart from “another” “Cat person/you know you want this” or Moshfeghs “homesick for another world” I’d still rate 5 stars even though there’s two dead dog stories which I’m too sensitive for.
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Before opening up the pages of Rag I had a feeling of apprehension. I knew from reading her book “North Wood” that I would be willingly putting myself through a haunting experience and that I would encounter characters and settings that would leave me chilled. I had to brace myself to dunk into the surreal world that Maryse Meijer constructed and I was not disappointed. It definitely felt akin to walking into a house of mirrors. The reflections surrounding me were twisted and dark and yet I could still recognize myself in them. I think that’s the scariest and most brilliant thing that Maryse Meijer does. I am not usually a fan of short stories but I thoroughly enjoyed this dark and twisty book. I couldn’t catch a break in between journeying from one character to another and sharing with them their hauntingly chilling tales. It was strange, so amazingly grotesque and even vulgar at some points and yet so fascinating. This is what I’ve used countless of times to describe this book. I can’t seem to break away from that statement because it seems so apt to describe my reading experience. I always think of reading as a journey down a river, sometimes the waters run calm and soothing and at others you have to hold on for dear life. Meijer’s words are singularly provocative and evocative in such a way that it felt as if I was in between Scylla and Charybdis. I can’t wait to read Heartbreaker and I will reiterate time and time again how glad I am to have been introduced to Maryse Meijer.
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Overall, I wasn't really surprised by any of the stories. I was expecting a bit more.
Fave stories: Viral, Evidence.
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I loved the interconnection of these stories. Very entertaining and gripping with characters that linger with you. Pick this up and enjoy this awesome book. Happy reading!
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If you loved everything that Meijer has written thus far, Rag doesn't disappoint! First, Heartbreaker, then Northwood, Meijer's books are haunting and will stick with you whether you want to or not, so be prepared, but also excited!
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Sometimes, I read a book that drowns me and suffocates me. These are the books I love. I read this a couple weeks ago, finished it in a couple days, and tried to get some distance from it. But I can't get the stories out of my head. This may be one of the best collections of short stories I have ever read. 

I cannot believe how much Meijer was able to fit into such short stories. The depth of these stories are incredible, the writing is beautiful, and the characters are haunting.

Read this.

Thank you FSG and NetGalley for the ARC.
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Certainly there is a history of the incident, going back before my time: injuries, a childhood illness, ostracism, mental disorder, loneliness, screams. A history of chance.

These stories are raw and I devoured them. They are about bleeding out, deprivation, forbidden attraction, hiding from the world, the meaning of freedom, and all the things we think and don’t say or feel and keep in the shadows. Humans are beasts, we’re fragile creatures and mean ones too. We destroy others, we destroy ourselves. We’re full of longing and disgust for our longings too. I think the most moving excerpt for me is from the story Jury, but I am only going to give a line or two from it, “They were so helpless. They cut themselves, starved themselves, got themselves killed.” Women, girls, because our reality is that dangerous, that threatening in the world we all share. He is just a father, sitting on a jury thinking he can understand a fellow juror because he notices something about her, as if labeling a thing means it is easily repaired. The line about his grown daughter too, loaded with meaning, for me anyway. “This was a girl with everything. And yet she never smiled.”  Jury resonated with me, its brutal and strangely quiet at the same time. It is all the things that don’t need to be said to understand even the relationship between father and daughter. He just doesn’t really get it, he is frustrated by the helplessness women deal with and yet, angry at the ways we fail to acknowledge the danger. 

All of the stories have meaning, purpose. In Rainbow Baby a mother’s grief is a specter, a bother like a living nightmare, decay in the brain. The hatred and betrayal of an old friend in Viral is so poisonous and sad, an ugly violence that isn’t far-fetched. It is born from envy, it is ‘animal hate’ of someone who ‘hasn’t known pain’. How broken our narrator of the story, and we the readers watching the transgression and knowing the horrible end, nothing you can do to stop it. Too, the manipulation at times young girls are so good at, with boys who can’t think more than “five minutes ahead”. What I think is fantastic about these characters is that they are incredibly developed for such short stories. With that line, a boy who “can’t think five minutes ahead”, it makes him such a solid mess, easily led. I can see him eager as a puppy.  I feel his naive stupidity as much as I felt the father’s anger and fears in Jury. If someone is suffering in a story, they can explain it to themselves, excusing it, erasing anything others would find seedy or even criminal, when in The Brother, the youngest takes what isn’t his, violates a girl. All because he longs to connect, to have what his brother has. Just like all the people on the outside, scratching to be let in!

As a reader I measure my responses as a human being, how is it I can be horrified and yet also feel sorry for the monster lurking in others. It’s so much easier to divide ourselves in categories, well I am nothing like that, there is nothing so primitive within my soul. Of course there is… the older you get the more you are tested by time, tragedy, experiences, the more things lash against you. It’s hard being your better self, your most human self. These are stories about feelings you should force to withdraw before you make a mistake you can’t take back. They are tales of sometimes allowing your dark side to run wild, or your emotions take over. It is being hungry with need, and my God desire and need can get ugly. Some offer themselves up as sacrifice to those who would soil them, I felt that in The Lover. Other’s close themselves away from the rest of us in The Shut-In, afraid of the world when they may be more monster than the threats they cower from. The ending of that story gutted me, it is such a small act but how I howled inside much like the unmasked.

The stories all stayed with me, and moved me in wonderfully strange and terrible ways. Yes, read it! From these stories alone I decided to start following the author.

Publication Date: February 12, 2019

Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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In Rag Maryse Meijer continues her exploration of the contrast between Nature and Nurture. In Heartbreaker she confronted the abusiveness of man over Nature and that of Nature over men, in some of the shorts in Rag she confronts the animal part of human nature (“Francis,” “Good Girls”) and the way in which sometimes human culture tends to justify some animal behaviour still present in us. 
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This is one of the very best book of stories that I have ever read.  The sheer depth of each story is enviable and memorable.  I will be reading other works from this author in the future and cannot wait to see what else she has in store for readers..  Thanks for the ARC, Net Galley.
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Book Review: Rag
Author: Maryse Meijer
Publisher: FSG Originals/Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication Date: February 12, 2019
Review Date: October 31, 2019

This is yet another collection of short stories, again very dark, violent and confounding. Amazing work, but after this I think I need a breather and will look in my TBR list for something a little lighter.  

Here’s the description on Amazon:
“From the author of Heartbreaker, a disquieting collection tracing the destructive consequences of the desire for connection.
A man, forgotten by the world, takes care of his deaf brother while euthanizing dogs for a living. A stepbrother so desperately wants to become his stepsibling that he rapes his girlfriend. In Maryse Meijer’s decidedly dark and searingly honest collection Rag, the desperate human desire for connection slips into a realm that approximates horror.
Meijer’s explosive debut collection, Heartbreaker, reinvented sexualized and romantic taboos, holding nothing back. In Rag, Meijer’s fearless follow-up, she shifts her focus to the dark heart of intimacies of all kinds, and the ways in which isolated people’s yearning for community can breed violence, danger, and madness. With unparalleled precision, Meijer spins stories that leave you troubled and slightly shaken by her uncanny ability to elicit empathy for society’s most marginalized people.”

I use these descriptions sometimes when I’m at a loss to provide my own. This book, like Friday Black, was a right-brain read for me. So, it’s difficult to describe what the stories are ABOUT. I’m more clear how they made me feel and what I think about the writing. 

The writing is Rag is simply breathtaking. The language, the imagery, the boldness of subject matter. Once again, another collection of stories way, way outside the box. Absolutely exquisite writing. 

I highly, highly recommend Rag. But be forewarned that the stories are deeply dark, violent and uncomfortable. If you’re up for taking a dive inside the realm of violence and savagery, this will be a book for you. If you’re looking for sweetness, light and bliss, I suggest you take a pass. That said, my hat off to Ms. Meijer for her courage and honesty at looking at the shadow that lives in all of us, whether we acknowledge it or not. 

This review will be posted now to NetGalley, and then Goodreads, Facebook, Instagram, Amazon and Barnes & Noble closer to the publication date.
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Interesting collection. Slice of life stories, but shaved very close to the skin, some bleeding even. At first these come across as slightly surreal and occasionally overstylized, but later stories are much more conventionally structured and (to me at least) more appealing. Definitely dark, these are tales of loneliness and sadness and uncertain attempts to connect. The latter might prove to be as challenging as connecting to the book itself, it just doesn’t lend itself to this sort of attachment, it maintain the distance with a sort of studied viscerality and emotional aloofness.   All bleak, some positively depressing, some merely odd…certainly unorthodox, not the sort of thing to easily enjoy or eagerly recommend. At about 100 minutes for 160 pages, it works as an experiment and can be noted for its originality, but not really something to like or love. Thanks Netgalley.
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