Winner of the University of Iowa Press 2014 John Simmons Short Fiction Prize!
"Kathleen Founds is a luminous, bright, subversive and very funny writer. What I especially love about her work is the sense that her strange and wonderful talent is always working in the service of a deeply humane and hopeful vision of the world."
~ George Saunders
"With the antic fearlessness of Mark Leyner and the compassion and inventiveness of Karen Russell, Kathleen Founds takes mad risks in tone and form and wins. These hilarious, heartbreaking stories build a new architecture between the novel and the postmodern parable, revising our notions of what the short story is and might be."
~ Wells Tower
"Kathleen Founds is a comic genius, and few comic writers can deliver such wisdom and pathos along with the laughs. Her characters are unforgettable, in part because they are so original, and in part because they so poignantly resemble ourselves. Hers is a voice that will resonate long after you've stopped laughing."
~ Mary Caponegro
"I first encountered these mystical animals when Kathleen Founds was in my writing class many years ago. I approached them with my pencil gripped firmly in hand, ready to analyze and criticize. The next things I knew, I was doodling in the margins of her story, actually drawing hearts and flowers all over it. I couldn't stop myself! I still don't know what happened; it was a very mystical and magical attack! All I can say is read this book and let it happen to you!"
~ Mary Gaitskill
"When Mystical Creatures Attack! is a collection of stories that reads like a dazzling, intricate, and electric novel. Kathleen Founds shows a true empathy towards these memorable characters, and I felt incredibly attached to them. Founds is a wonderful new talent, and her prose and voice are incredibly charming, witty, and stirringly graceful."
~ Tom Kealey, Thieves I've Known
PUBLISHER’S WEEKLY STARRED REVIEW
Told through high school class assignments, letters, emails, private journal entries, school literary magazine submissions, advice column blog posts, and psychiatric wellness reports, the 25 linked stories in this debut collection beautifully sketch the lives of residents of a small South Texas town. Chief among them is Laura Freedman, a 23-year-old high school English teacher struggling with mental illness and her failure to “heal and transform” her students, and her student Janice Gibbs, “a feral child with... an antiauthoritarian complex” who becomes Laura’s correspondent and confidante. Writing with compassion that never curdles into pity, Founds follows the lives of this pair for a decade, as Laura hits bottom and rebounds from incarceration in a New Age-y sanitarium, and the unmarried Janice gets pregnant and becomes addicted to painkillers. The author captures the emotional turmoil of her characters through arresting imagery—“I imagine myself sticking my hand in my ribcage, pulling out shards of colored glass,” writes Laura—and offsets the darkness of their experiences with amusing scenes in which they banter with one another and ponder the absurdity of their predicaments. Founds’s stories are punctuated with marvelous moments of humor and pathos, and no matter the narrative form they take, they uniformly reveal vividly realized characters with complex inner lives.
Exuberantly odd and emotionally daring stories follow a cast of engaging characters through small-town Texas in Founds’ debut collection.
In the first story of this unusual collection, Laura Freedman asks her high school English class to write about their favorite mystical creatures solving the greatest sociopolitical problems of our time. The resulting vignettes—in which a sphinx solves loneliness, a giant squid stops a pregnancy, and a phoenix rescues Ms. Freedman herself from Texas—introduce a young teacher, on her way to a crushing breakdown and a stay in an insane asylum, and two of her students, the disaffected Janice Gibbs and the irrepressible Cody Splunk. Founds follows the lives of these characters through 24 other stories that range in form from email conversations to journal entries to recipes from a fundraising cookbook assembled by a Methodist women’s society. While the structure and tone vary widely, with some stories approaching self-conscious acrobatics, the characters stay vivid throughout, and Founds handles both unhappy and absurd elements with wit, humor and compassion. In “Frankye,” a psychiatric journaling exercise forces Ms. Freedman to write about her young self losing unconditional love via time and regret. Cody and Janice perform two versions of a friendly rescue—one capering and slapstick, one banal—in “Mexico Foxtrot Rides Again,” and they face murderous biblical wax figurines in “In the Hall of Old Testament Miracles.” Each story adds a layer of feeling, understanding and history to the characters as they slide back and forth through time and relationships. They handle, gracefully, the whiplash switch between depression and hilarity, between the ghost of a suicidal mother and a love-struck boy promising to invent a time machine.
A surreal, dark and very funny collection that has the emotional punch of a novel.
Copyright © 2013 Kathleen Founds
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