When Mystical Creatures Attack! (Iowa Short Fiction Award)

By Kathleen Founds
Publisher:University Of Iowa Press, (10/1/2014)

Average Rating:
Very Unleashable
4.00 out of 5 (2 Clubie's ratings)

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In When Mystical Creatures Attack!, Ms. Freedman’s high school English class writes essays in which mystical creatures resolve the greatest sociopolitical problems of our time. Students include Janice Gibbs, “a feral child with excessive eyeliner and an anti-authoritarian complex that would be interesting were it not so ill-informed,” and Cody Splunk, an aspiring writer working on a time machine. Following a nervous breakdown, Ms. Freedman corresponds with Janice and Cody from an insane asylum run on the capitalist model of cognitive-behavioral therapy, where inmates practice water aerobics to rebuild their Psychiatric Credit Scores.
The lives of Janice, Cody, and Ms. Freedman are revealed through in-class essays, letters, therapeutic journal exercises, an advice column, a reality show television transcript, a diary, and a Methodist women’s fundraising cookbook. (Recipes include “Dark Night of the Soul Food,” “Render Unto Caesar Salad,” and “Valley of the Shadow of Death by Chocolate Cake.”) In “Virtue of the Month,” the ghost of Ms. Freedman’s mother argues that suicide is not a choice. In “The Un-Game,” Janice’s chain-smoking nursing home charge composes a dirty limerick. In “The Hall of Old-Testament Miracles,” wax figures of Bible characters come to life, hungry for Cody’s flesh.
Set against a South Texas landscape where cicadas hum and the air smells of taco stands and jasmine flowers, these stories range from laugh-out-loud funny to achingly poignant. This surreal, exuberant collection mines the dark recesses of the soul while illuminating the human heart.
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Ceci's thoughts on "When Mystical Creatures Attack! (Iowa Short Fiction Award)"
updated on:2/1/2015

Sometimes, the most interesting part of a short story is what is left unwritten. That great economy of words leaves much interpretation to the reader, and that can be a source of delight or frustration, depending on the story – or on your personality. WHEN MYSTICAL CREATURES ATTACK is the best of all worlds. A series of short stories following the same characters, each story is like a laser cut jewel, with its own particular shine. No explanatory backstory. No context. But, cumulatively that backstory and context gradually emerge, revealing the meaning that runs through all the stories. Well, at least the meaning I thought ran through all the stories. The sign of any good book is a good argument over what it means, and my book club had a hearty debate on the subject, as well as what happened at “the end.” This book had me laughing out loud and near tears. Whether you will be debating it with your book group, or reading it on your own, do read it.


Book Junky's thoughts on "When Mystical Creatures Attack! (Iowa Short Fiction Award)"
updated on:1/14/2015

This book is written in the most interesting way. I absolutely LOVED the unique approach. The author tackles mental health issues with humor that at times reminded me of The Bloggess. And there are several non-mental health related parts that were quite humorous too. The story is revealed in a nice way through various methods. But… one of my biggest ways to judge a book is how excited I am to get reading it every night before I go to bed… and I just wasn’t that thrilled to get back to this one and was pretty happy when it was done… but I can’t put my finger on why that is. I have a few possibilities: 1. Maybe it was that it explored a dark topic (mental health) yet I feel I came away with no profound revelations. I read it on a Kindle, and I have never seen so FEW “popular highlights” - there was one, and that one is only highlighted by 3 people, and it wasn’t THAT interesting. And my few highlights when I reread them were not even that thought inspiring. Honestly, if I am going to read about someone suffering a “nervous breakdown,” even if it is humorous, I want more profound insights into life. 2. The book description - The book description makes it sound really good, but I don’t feel the actual content quite lived up to the hype of the description or the cleverness of the presentation. It was a pretty fun read that could probably generate some book club discussion, but I am guessing not a ton. Definitely read it for the unique approach (it is short and it isn’t going to hurt). But better than the book, check out the author’s blog: http://www.kathleenfounds.com there is a lot of funny stuff there that is not so depressing. I would read this author again, but hope deeper insights are one their way in any upcoming books.

Unleash it

"When Mystical Creatures Attack! (Iowa Short Fiction Award)"
By Kathleen Founds

Average Rating:
Very Unleashable
4.00 out of 5 (2 Clubie's ratings)

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