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“What is the shape of progress inside a sub-par environment, when escape is not possible, and life must be measured as the relative extremity of multiple misfortunes? Is it the shape of a bird?”
Penelope Cray’s Miracles Come on Mondays begins with a voice—stark, chilling, totally captivating—that searches a barren landscape for a single receptive ear. With echoes of Italo Calvino, Jorge Luis Borges, and Lydia Davis, it is Kafka these dark and sometimes darkly funny scenes resemble most. Cray’s characters strain against the indifference of everyday life until, too tired to yearn anymore, they begin the systematic work of making their worlds mentally and spiritually tolerable. And yet, somehow, there’s joy. This book asks us to let go of our ideas of sense and replace them with something better, something that somehow makes more sense than sense. Penelope Cray has written a debut work of fiction that feels entirely new and deeply true.
Praise for Miracles Come on Mondays:
These dark fractured fables tell stories of strange texture; stories about characters trying to find their way amid currents both small and large in a world in which personal and spiritual intimacy feel dangerously compromised. They are philosophical, funny, and frank. Like the fictions of Fanny Howe, Italo Calvino, and Rikki Ducournet, Cray’s stories rarely comfort. Then again, as one narrator observes, “When some alien sensation rises in the body, it unsettles rather than clarifies.”
Are these stories? Prose poems? Overexcited aphorisms that forgot to stop? I don’t know, and I don’t care. Like Lydia Davis, Russell Edson, and Sarah Manguso, Penelope Cray has found an ingenious way to pack everything a good story needs into tiny domestic dioramas, luminous Cornell boxes in which the detritus of the American home is artfully arranged. These pieces bring whole histories to life in an instant, counting, accounting, measuring, cataloging life’s wild mundanities for which there is no accounting: “one bird is good, better than two and much better than three.” Mired in the kinds of misunderstandings that motor a moment, a marriage, a mistake, Cray’s characters are anxiously wrung out of twisted logic, haunted by a persistent past that won’t cede the stage to the perilous present. Cray darkly mirrors our world, in which “one way forward is to forget to remember. Another is to remember to forget.” Hilarious, terrifying, and true, this is an amazing book you can forget about forgetting.
–Craig Morgan Teicher
These pensees are a marvel to read as they rush between theology and biology. They travel from surface to infinity, with something like the spirit of one running in order to forget. They are deep, original types of storytelling that remind me of Lydia Davis without her commitment to logic. These go off the edge and whirl like an Ascension Sunday into the miracles of a Monday.
Not since Dodgson’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland has a debut felt so consummate, so fully achieved, so necessary, and welcome. Penelope Cray’s Miracles Come on Mondays is part koan and part fable for days of the week on a calendar whose blithely inviting squares open like doors inside of which we shrink and grow. It is a dark comedy of domestic manners, and a collection of detective tales whose mystery is desire or god or the body at odds with and “wed” to its Self. A bed begins its nighttime routine without its person; a dead brother hides in a freckle at the base of his sister’s knee; and, the kindest, most gentle ear in the world is that of an ant. Here are weird dramas rendered with assuredness and without aversion: this book is beautifully, gloriously perverse. It is hilarious, and it is terrifying.