Book Recommendations: Melancholy of Mechagirl

September signals beginnings for me. Perhaps there will come a time, when I am many moons away from schools and Septembers, and then this month won’t hold such urgency, but for now, for me, it does.

And I am willing to wager that September has a similar hold on you, dear reader.

As you’re propelling from space to space: from the car to the doors of your high school, perhaps, from the subway platform to your first sip of coffee at a cafe nearby, maybe, or from one extracurricular to another, times passes—flies, really—and free time is precious.

When time is precious, committing to a full-length novel is difficult. During those fleeting moments of freedom, I tend to reach for short story collections.

Today’s book recommendation is Catherynne M. Valente’s Melancholy of Mechagirl.

Melancholy of Mechagirl is a collection of science fiction and fantasy stories with a connection to Japan. While Valente now lives and writes on an island off the coast of Maine, she spent several years in Yokosuka, an experience that informed and transformed her writing.

“[Melancholy of Mechagirl is] not a book that purports to speak for Japanese culture in any way,” Valente writes in the afterword, “but one which speaks for its author, for a span of ten years circling Japan and never reaching it, and a single woman’s relationship with a nation not her own which, very occasionally, sat down to tea with her.”

Melancholy of Mechagirl is a collection of 13 short pieces, ranging from two-page poems to tales spanning 20 pages, and one novella, “Silently and Very Fast.”

In these stories, a girl in a fox skin tries to get her paws around teacups and her bushy tail into dresses, a paper lantern falls hopelessly in love, the beginnings of the universe are rewritten in 13 ways, ink and water mix with milk to tell the passage of time, and an AI named Elefsis learns about the world.

This collection is for those who have a spare half hour or (if you’re lucky) several half hour chunks stacked atop one another, and for those who love science fiction, fantasy, and mythology, and are curious to see just what lies at the intersection of all three.

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