Things to Make and Break is a difficult book to situate in both literary and geographical terms. Comprised of eleven stories that move between London and Los Angeles, Hong Kong and who-knows-where, the collection is all told in a tone of blank and deliberate disaffection which, though mostly well-worked, sometimes struggles to carry the text’s more heightened, surrealistic passages. Identities are forever in flux, so intermittently aligned. In ‘Candy Glass’, a transgender stuntwoman leaves LA and the lover for whom she is also double in an attempt to settle down in a small town and live ‘as a woman’, ‘where nobody knows’. She even plans to get a husband. If this desire to tie oneself down into tradition is not exactlypar for the course here, the condition of disposability and drift from which the desire arises certainly is. The names are androgynous, most parents are absent, and in ‘Legendary’ the narrator’s boyfriend keeps naked photographs of ex-girlfriends in a manila envelope marked ‘tax papers’. Things to Make and Break is a discreet economy of surfaces. ‘I have no depth perception,’ notes one character. ‘Everything just looks flat.’ Skin is the most important semiotic space in these stories. Scabs are picked, scars persist, and characters get on with the quiet business of being quietly anguished.
This review originally appeared in the April issue of Totally Dublin.