“Book Review: Because the Sky Is a Thousand Soft Hurts”
Reviewed by Joe Walters
Vulnerability collides with trauma on this artful linguistic landscape
Just take a look at this cover. Let your tongue roll over the title. Sure, it’s a collection of stories, a string of events that show our characters changing and growing, but we can’t start talking about this book until we start talking about the language inside it. Blending mystical imagery with sound and linguistic experimentation, Kirschner is a poet in a fiction author’s shoes.
The stories are largely from the perspective of those who have been making their way through lives of flailing mental health. It’s an examination of manifesting pain through fantasy and metaphor, a collection of mothers and daughters, of bad men, of miscarriages, of genius, and of loneliness.
When Kirschner gets it right, she really gets it right. Unafraid to take steps toward the fantastic, she weaves smart stories of something internal with wildly unexpected imagery like a lion waiting for you at the bottom of a cliff. These images double down on a character’s conflict and send us swirling toward a fuller understanding of a plight that we couldn’t have known otherwise.
With the mundane of the mystical and the oddity of sexualization, Because the Sky Is a Thousand Soft Hurts bears resemblance to Sarah Rose Etter’s brilliant debut The Book of X. If you’re looking for those stories that shine brightest in this collection, check out “Lattice of Filaments” and “In a Scene Dead Forever,” but don’t forget to appreciate the language on your way there:
“In the bathroom, I lifted the gray folds of my brain to get at the pink parts—stuffed toilet paper into all the tiny holes I cut so it looked like a field of reg flags waving— paper tulips, love notes.”
While there is explosive and on-point exploratory language in here, it does miss the mark a bit too often. There’s an overload of metaphors in a number of stories that make the narrative hard to understand and even make the point of a simile too hard to understand. At times, it feels like the collection’s goal is more in exploring the musicality of the prose than of telling cohesive and impactful storylines. This makes for an at-times frustrating reading experience and does make me wonder what the collection could have been if we removed the excess and got down to only the strongest of Kirschner’s work.
Because the Sky Is a Thousand Soft Hurts is a blend of real and not-real, a foray into the peaks and valleys of language. While there may be just a bit too much going on, I’m still thankful to have found such a bold and inventive prose stylist in Elizabeth Kirschner.
Publisher: Atmosphere Press
Genre: Short Story Collections / Literary
Print Length: 374 pages
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