PILLS, CHILLS, THRILLS, AND HEARTACHE: Adventures in the First Person

Clint Catalyst, Editor, Michelle Tea, Editor . Alyson $15.95 (366p) ISBN 978-1-55583-753-2

Thirty-seven writers, ranging from veterans to neophytes, followed one rule for this anthology: each story had to be told in the first person. Aiming to offer "insight into the life of the outsider," these pieces reveal idiosyncratic and often disaffected worldviews; the main characters are struggling, troubled, intelligent observers of life's darker sides. In Charles Anders's "I Am So Smart," the lovelorn narrator thinks of his female crush, "You're all the genders I want to be naked with." In the comic "Love Boat and Lingerie" by Cara Bruce, the eponymous narrator recalls a bra-shopping (or shoplifting, rather) expedition when she was 14, high as a kite and questioning her sexuality: "I was now convinced that PCP made you gay." One of the collection's more shocking pieces is "The Shitty Schoolgirl" by Lisa Archer, in which a Ph.D. student blithely recounts defecating on blissful clients for fistfuls of cash. There are numerous short takes: Bob Lavender's haunting "The Theory of Maternal Impression," about a terrible and rare cancer and the historical implications of being considered a freak; Shawna Kennedy's cursory "Shiny Baubles," about bulimia and an abusive relationship; and Eileen Myles's potent "Liquid Sky," concerning the devastating effects of alcoholism. J.T. Leroy's "When to Be a Girl" is quick and rough, full of sharply portrayed angst and the palpable fear of not fitting in. Though wildly uneven, the collection is bound to make a splash with readers seeking edgy fiction. (Feb.)

Forecast: Inventive cover art—silhouettes bearing the contributors' names wait for a train—should give this anthology a boost.

Reviewed on: 01/12/2004
Release date: 02/01/2004
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