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Reviews of Shit Cassandra Saw by Gwen Kirby

Shit Cassandra Saw

Stories

by Gwen E. Kirby

Shit Cassandra Saw by Gwen E. Kirby X
Shit Cassandra Saw by Gwen E. Kirby
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     Not Yet Rated
  • Paperback:
    Jan 2022, 288 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Lisa Butts
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About this Book

Book Summary

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.

This is the full text of the titular story from Gwen E. Kirby's Shit Cassandra Saw

Shit Cassandra Saw
That She Didn't Tell the Trojans Because at that Point Fuck Them Anyway

Lightbulbs.

Penguins.

Bud Light.

Velcro.

Claymation. The moon made out of cheese.

Tap dancing.

Yoga.

Twizzlers. Mountain Dew. Jell-O Colors she can eat with her eyes.

Methamphetamine.

T-shirts. Thin and soft, they pass from person to person, men to women, each owner slipping into different teams-Yankees, Warriors-and out again with no bloodshed, no thought to allegiance or tribe. And the words! Profusions of nonsense. The Weather Is Here, Wish You Were Fine. Chemists Do It on the Table Periodically. Cut Class Not Frogs. Words everywhere and for everyone, for nothing but a joke, for the pleasure of them, a world so careless with its words. And not just on T-shirts. Posters. Water bottles. Newspapers. Junk mail. Bumper stickers. Lists. Top ten Halloween costumes for your dog as modeled by this corgi. Top ten times a monkey...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

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The speculative stories tend to be built on gimmicks, to varying degrees of success. One of the best of these stories is "Mary Read Is a Crossdressing Pirate, the Raging Seas, 1720," which does not lean on a comical title or absurdist setup, but simply and movingly narrates the experiences of an 18th century English woman who lived as a man and joined a crew of pirates. Still stronger are the stories grounded in reality, with more heart and less humor. "Mt. Adams at Mar Vista" revolves around a high school softball game in which the visiting team, Mt. Adams, wrestles with their complicated feelings about playing a team where a school shooting has just occurred. Humor and pathos are combined effectively in "Here Preached His Last," a story about a woman who is having an affair because she feels unfulfilled...continued

Full Review (604 words)

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(Reviewed by Lisa Butts).

Media Reviews

NPR
Kirby has mastered the art of short fiction…A stunning collection from a writer whose talent and creativity seem boundless.

Shelf Awareness
Remarkable...Wielding humor and shock, Kirby audaciously unmasks gender disparity with delightful, disturbing aplomb.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
The stories, which highlight the lives of famous (and infamous) women from history as well as those of contemporary women and men, are both pointedly feminist and comic...With zany plots, unconventional forms, and playful, poetic language, these stories delight at every turn.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Kirby's excellent debut collection follows a series of women empowered by new circumstances, sometimes with fantastical results...The prose is sharp and calibrated to suit each of Kirby's temporally and geographically diverse settings. She is even able to wring pathos from a story written in the format of a Yelp review...It's all accomplished through risk-taking and assured, well-developed craft. This is remarkable.

Author Blurb Christine Schutt, author of Pure Hollywood
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.

Author Blurb Simon Han, author of Nights When Nothing Happened
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.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

Mary Read (c. 1695 – 1721)

Engraved color depiction of Mary Read, standing on shore with sword in hand and ships in the background One of the stories in Gwen E. Kirby's collection Shit Cassandra Saw is written in the voice of Mary Read, also known as Mark Read, an English woman who often lived as a man and sailed the seas as a pirate. Little is known for certain about Read — much of what is said about her is taken from Captain Charles Johnson's book A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the Most Notorious Pyrates (1724), most of which is believed to be apocryphal. According to Johnson, Read's mother was married to a sailor with whom she had a son. Both her husband and her son died, and she dressed Mary, whom she had out of wedlock with another man, as her dead half-brother so she could receive an inheritance from her former mother-in-law.

...

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Read-Alikes

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