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Shit Cassandra Saw: Stories (Paperback)
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“Kirby has mastered the art of short fiction…A stunning collection from a writer whose talent and creativity seem boundless.”
“Kirby takes joy in subverting the reader’s expectations at every turn. Her characters might be naïve, even reckless, but they aren’t about to be victims: They’re strong, and brave, and nearly always capable of rescuing themselves.”
—New York Times Book Review
Margaret Atwood meets Buffy in these funny, warm, and furious stories of women at their breaking points, from Hellenic times to today.
Cassandra may have seen the future, but it doesn't mean she's resigned to telling the Trojans everything she knows. In this ebullient collection, virgins escape from being sacrificed, witches refuse to be burned, whores aren't ashamed, and every woman gets a chance to be a radioactive cockroach warrior who snaps back at catcallers. Gwen E. Kirby experiments with found structures--a Yelp review, a WikiHow article--which her fierce, irreverent narrators push against, showing how creativity within an enclosed space undermines and deconstructs the constraints themselves. When these women tell the stories of their triumphs as well as their pain, they emerge as funny, angry, loud, horny, lonely, strong protagonists who refuse to be secondary characters a moment longer. From "The Best and Only Whore of Cym Hyfryd, 1886" to the "Midwestern Girl Is Tired of Appearing in Your Short Stories," Kirby is playing and laughing with the women who have come before her and they are telling her, we have always been this way. You just had to know where to look.
About the Author
Gwen E. Kirby is a native San Diegan and graduate of Carleton College. She has an MFA from Johns Hopkins University and a PhD from the University of Cincinnati. Her stories appear in One Story, Tin House, Guernica, Mississippi Review, Ninth Letter, SmokeLong Quarterly, and elsewhere. Guest editor Aimee Bender selected her story “Shit Cassandra Saw . . .” for Best Small Fictions 2018 and it also appears in the 2018 Wigleaf Top 50. Her story “Midwestern Girl Is Tired of Appearing in Your Short Stories” won the 2017 DISQUIET Literary Prize for Fiction and she was the 2018-2019 George Bennett Fellow at Phillips Exeter Academy. Currently, she is the associate director of programs and finance for the Sewanee Writers’ Conference at the University of the South, where she also teaches creative writing.
"Kirby has mastered the art of short fiction...A stunning collection from a writer whose talent and creativity seem boundless."
“When I reached the end of every single one of Gwen E. Kirby's wildly unique stories, I felt like she had altered the universe a little, created a new element, opened up some fault lines in the earth. Kirby writes with boundless humor, a confidence and ease with strange premises, and yet there is always that flash of a fang or a blade or a Sharpie, reminding you to pay closer attention.”
—Kevin Wilson, New York Times bestselling author of Nothing to See Here
“Gwen E. Kirby's debut collection of short stories dares to ask: what if we just let women be their messiest selves? Through this lens, she imagines scenarios women (and men!) may have encountered since the Hellenic times, up until today, playing with different structures including a "How To" essay and a scathing Yelp review that has a lot more bubbling under the surface. These hilarious stories use satire to examine real struggles and criticisms of the world and patriarchal standards. If you want to laugh and think, pick this one up.” --Buzzfeed
"Excellent...The prose is sharp and calibrated to suit each of Kirby's temporally and geographically diverse settings...[with] risk-taking and assured, well-developed craft. This is remarkable."
—Publishers Weekly *Starred Review*
"With zany plots, unconventional forms, and playful, poetic language, these stories delight at every turn."
—Kirkus Reviews *Starred Review*
“In dazzling story after story…Kirby meditates on the fears, joys and pains of being a woman throughout the centuries. Every story feels unique, yet they’re tied together by Kirby’s mind-bendingly confident writing and her clear fascination with strong yet vulnerable women…Shit Cassandra Saw is pure pleasure.”
—Bookpage *Starred Review*
"Remarkable...Wielding humor and shock, Kirby audaciously unmasks gender disparity with delightful, disturbing aplomb."
“[An] explosive, original, fearless, funny, on-the-money feminist story collection that delivers.”
—Publishers Weekly, Open Book
“As fun as it is furious, Shit Cassandra Saw rewrites womanhood with a cast of complex, contradictory, brave and bonkers heroines as likely to skewer you with a cutlass as they are to poorly re-tile your bathroom. I want to be friends with all of the women in this collection who refuse to be anything other than exactly who they are. A barnburner of a book that will set you ablaze with its clear-eyed brilliance.”
—Rachel Yoder, author of Nightbitch
“Shit Cassandra Saw is a readable and unflinching book about womanhood in the modern world. The stories in this collection are fierce yet playful, like the characters themselves, and I read along in a fugue state of gleeful panic. Gwen E. Kirby takes readers into a funhouse of the mundane, revealing the excitement, possibility, and pure fun that lives just behind the predictable man's world we already know.”
—Liv Stratman, author of Cheat Day
“Radiant truths are arrived at raucously in Shit Cassandra Saw, Gwen E. Kirby’s spirited debut story collection. Kirby writes with deadpan humor about louts and witches and cross-dressing pirates, gods and ghosts and whores in wildly entertaining stories that swerve into wisdom and deeply satisfy.”
—Christine Schutt, author of Pure Hollywood
“The stories in Shit Cassandra Saw strike fast and leave you humming in their mysteries. Gwen E. Kirby has written a book that boldly defies categorization, much like the women at its center. Here is a writer who is too good to tell a story just one way. I’ll follow Kirby’s mind anywhere.”
—Simon Han, author of Nights When Nothing Happened