cover image Half-Lives


Lynn Schmeidler. Autumn House, $19.95 trade paper (166p) ISBN 978-1-63768-091-9

Schmeidler’s entertaining and farcical debut collection features darkly humorous stories about women’s bodies and sexuality. In the aptly named “Sex Was Everywhere,” a sixth grader senses sexual energy in nearly everything she comes across: the scent of deodorant, the taste of mints, even the “heat that gathered under the ceiling of the gym” during rope-climbing exercises. Arriving alongside her sexual awareness is a newfound fear, as she imagines a serial killer lurking wherever she goes. The narrator of “Corpse Pose,” a recently deceased 25-year-old single woman, thinks her mother must be relieved that she is dead, now that she is free from the agony of blind dates, the cost of therapy, and her endless obsession with her body. In “The Future Was Vagina Forward,” a woman lists her vagina for rent on Airbnb and receives myriad questions ranging from her cleaning policies to whether children and pets are allowed (they’re not). Her first guest leaves a rave review, remarking on her vagina’s “soft, warm soundproof curtains.” After consulting a tax lawyer, she begins writing off household expenses. The narrator playfully acknowledges that her vagina is a “metaphor but also a real thing,” and the author skillfully skirts the line here and elsewhere between fabulism and realism. Schmeidler’s offbeat tales are wonderfully bizarre. (Mar.)