Disasters in the First World
Grove Press/Black Cat, 2017
Praise for Disasters in the First World:
From a dazzling new American storyteller—who “writes with Carveresque clarity and bite” (Janet Fitch)—an arresting debut story collection that explores the fragility of troubled lives caught in disruptive turbulence.
“Olivia Clare is pure literary dynamite. In these stories, humor and dread oscillate at sonic speed, and the worldliness of the sensibility never negates its vulnerability. Clare writes with Carveresque clarity and bite and an elegance all her own. A bravura debut.”
—Janet Fitch, author of White Oleander and Paint It Black
“These insightful stories . . . flout convention and work in mysterious ways. Two in particular―‘Pétur’ and ‘The Visigoths’―will probably be anthologized and taught and cherished for years to come. They’re so well crafted . . . [they] flicker with moments of rare insight and nuance . . . makes me want to pick up whatever Clare publishes next.”
“Clare’s debut short story collection explores the lives of varied characters—lovers, family, and tenants; the links they forge with others; and the odd, confounding worlds they inhabit. . . . In these thoughtful tales, Clare, winner of a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writer’s Award and an O. Henry Prize, presents characters who, instead of begging for sympathy, seem to desire clarity.” —Booklist
“Lyrical and elegiac . . . Clare’s writing sparkles with unexpected word . . . Her stories unfold in wonderfully astonishing turns . . . Tender yet occasionally biting, Disasters in the First World ekes narrative poetry out of tragedy . . . Clare writes compassionately and unflinchingly about mental suffering.”
“If Karen Russell wrote realistic fiction . . . everyday people grappling with really big things . . . Disasters big and small about modern life and the difficulties of being a person connecting with other people, doing the right thing.”
“The stories in Disasters in the First World are broad, clear, wild, caring, evocative, deceptively simple, clever without resorting to boring cynicism, deeply-affected and affecting, and rendered expertly with admirably few strokes. Sister to missing sister, vaulted son to mother, the characters who haunt these pages are marked in their depths by their profound and painful stumblings toward connection. They will stay with you for a very, very long time.”
—Marie-Helene Bertino, author of 2 A.M. at the Cat’s Pajamas
“Graceful and understated, the stories in Disasters in the First World probe the strangeness in the ordinary. Olivia Clare’s language is insightful, shimmering, and entirely her own.”
—Kirstin Valdez Quade, author of Night at the Fiestas
“Olivia Clare’s debut collection will surprise you with its poetic weirdness, its dark confidence. The ‘disasters' in these stories are tragically indefinite, fissures in the lives of the characters, whom Clare brings to life with humor, wisdom, and brutal honesty."
—Vu Tran, author of Dragonfish
“The ordinary is transformed in the crucible of Olivia Clare's mind. These stories are artful and strange, both otherworldly and gloriously earthbound. They'll wend their way into your consciousness with stealth.”
—Lauren Acampora, author of The Wonder Garden
Olivia Clare’s delightfully strange and tender debut story collection traces the intersection of larger-than-life forces on everyday people. From siblings whose relationship is as fragile as glass, to a woman grappling with both an emotional and physical drought, to a superstitious spouse fearful of misfortune, Disasters in the First World delves into the real and the fantastical, environmental and man-made calamities, and the human need to comprehend the unknown.
These thirteen stories uncover truths beneath both actual and imagined disasters and delve into the complicated depths of relationships, unmasking the most revealing moments of connection—no matter how fleeting. In “Pittsburgh in Copenhagen,” a man and a woman confront infidelity and estrangement as they share one last night together. “Pétur” tells the tale of a son who takes his mother on an Icelandic vacation, only to be stranded there after a volcanic eruption. “Rusalka’s Long Legs” follows a young girl’s treacherously long walk through the woods with her unpredictable mother. And in “The Visigoths,” an older sister finds a way to break through to her idiosyncratic brother who struggles to fit in.
With insight and grace, the stories in this collection each exist as mysterious universes—and through their intimate, profoundly moving worlds, Clare’s voice rises as a distinctive and masterful new literary talent.