cover image Creature


Amina Cain. Dorothy, a Publishing Project (SPD, dist.), $16 (144p) ISBN 978-0-9844693-8-3

Cain’s latest book, after I Go to Some Hollow, is a moody, enigmatic collection of 14 miniature stories, some as short as four pages. In one, a former cult victim recalls her abuse; in another, a woman enters into a three-way relationship with a married couple. Each narrator seems to have undergone trauma or something akin to it—unease, illness, adulthood—and so their streams of consciousness have the texture of recovery. Cain captures a particular kind of attempt at happiness: trying to be easy on oneself; praying at a Zen monastery; focusing on small pleasures like orchids and neatly folded towels. Perhaps that’s why, in both form and content, so much here is microscopic, with a delicate sadness infusing mundane activities like bathing, spilling olive oil, and touching a wall. At times, this mélange of fragments produces the atmosphere of a whole, but at others the bits seem disconnected and the search for meaning desultory. But Cain’s tone—unknowing, exhibiting the most awed reverence toward the smallest details of life and thought—remains wonderfully effective throughout, though one sometimes wishes she’d use it on richer content. It lingers after the pages are done, leaving an aftertaste that’s somehow more pleasant than the experience itself. (Nov.)