Review: Because the Sky is a Thousand Soft Hurts - Elizabeth Kirschner
Genre: Short Stories
Published: Atmosphere Press, June 2021
My rating: 1/5 stars
I’m always deeply hesitant to give a one-star rating to a debut collection, however I couldn’t really defend anything different to myself regarding this reading experience...
Working my way through Because the Sky is a Thousand Soft Hurts felt a bit like a Sisyphean task: slow, repetitive and eventually leading nowhere. Similar to a Sisyphean task, it’s possible to find a deeper meaning behind it, yet you will ultimately need to search for (and come up with) it all by yourself.
It was initially the title that drew me to this collection: it’s a beautiful and almost visually invocative statement that screams for an explanation or a deeper analysis. What does this mean?
Unfortunately, like many of the other metaphors in this work, it doesn’t actually mean anything. It’s word-salad; incoherent and inherently devoid of clear meaning, other than what the reader attributes to it themself. You could call it an experience in “self-exploration”, finding the answers in yourself, but the same can be said about the creation of a random-text generator, so I can’t quite credit the author for it…
In short stories and poetry, more than any other genre, it’s critical that the form supports the content. In this collection that simply wasn’t the case. Where the stories are quite slice-of-life and invite the reader to contemplate about them, all my energy went into trying (and failing) to figure out these metaphors.
Beyond the empty metaphors, the author employs a single structure to present them all: *Description of event or object*, like a *description of something that has absolutely nothing in common with first event/object*.
As an example:
“I grew up stubborn, like jello molded in tiny doll dishes, each trembling bit different in shape but otherwise all the same”
(also, I’m fairly sure there’s an “a” missing in between trembling and bit here)
For reference: I had my kindle count the amount of times this constellation is used: 545. This collection has 545 instances of this exact phrasing in 374 pages… It became repetitive and very noticeable after a certain point.
Overall, I’ve seen people having positive experiences with this collection, but mine wasn’t one of them, and therefore, I cannot recommend it. That being said, due to the very few ratings on Goodreads and Amazon, I feel like my one-star may harm this debut more than is fair, so I will refrain from rating it there.
Many thanks to the Atmosphere Press for providing me with a free copy in exchange for an honest review.