Emma Cline is a modern master of the form of the short story, and her new collection Daddy explores a modern world where the anxious feminine character weaves among vulturous men in the literal and anticipated senses to examine what happens when we indulge in our anxieties.
In these stories, our characters are occasionally well aware of the emotional and physical atrocities they have committed to another, while others are ignorant of the slow-burning impact their actions have all had on those around them until decades later, if at all. In every sense, these pieces are a subtle yet striking window into the inner workings of our characters, oftentimes with some power dynamic that strikes at the foundations of every interaction, be it familial, aged, professional, gendered, or psychological. These stories are wholly about the discovery or lack of discovery of this dynamic, and the anxious vibrations that hum beneath the surface of every interactions and what we use to cope with these anxieties. Every story in this collection is an incredible feat of storytelling engineering, and the true thematic depth of where Cline is going is often not apparent at the beginning of each piece as a structural shift often comes later to reveal the true directions of the piece. While this can often be disorienting when handled by less capable writers, Cline is able to perform a magic of bookends in her stories that open like a butterfly’s wings once you have the perspective of seeing them furl open for the first time.
My favorite pieces in this collection were easily “What Can You Do With A General, Los Angeles, Northeast Regional, Marion, Mack The Knife, and A/S/L. A stunning achievement of the form.