Short fictions | 6″x8″, 144 pp, pbk |May 2010
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The fictions in Man’s Companions are mongrel, troubling the genus of story with miscegenations and mutations, and at the heart of the book is the figure of the anima non grata, the unwanted woman, a degraded version of man. Using language by turns digressive, obsessive, overblown, romantic, fickle, and mundane, Man’s Companions manipulates feminine tropes and finds a kind of joyous liberty in its proliferation of thwarted affairs and awkward interludes.
Ruocco restores the power of a familiar [feminist] critique by rendering it uncanny…. When you read her stories, you find yourself warped from one world to another, transported by the flight of her words between languages.
—David Carroll Simon, The Nation
Thirty-one brief, clever tales … underscore absurdities in the human species…. Ruocco’s understated humor and irony have a playful, experimental appeal.
Ruocco is consistently inventive. She tilts the world as we know it, challenging our senses. With stories that average just a couple of pages, the brevity of Ruocco’s pieces makes it easy to zip through them—don’t. Don’t even read them in sequence. Each will stand alone, and will probably stand taller that way.
—Hana Park, TriQuarterly
Early Lydia Davis seems not unfairly applicable, as does Amy Hempel, not merely for their separately singular abilities to convey a tremendous amount of information and a great emotional range with an economy of text, but also for the alternately insouciant and piercingly human wit with which they do so.
—Ben Gottlieb, Art + Culture
[E]very time I set the book down or even closed the cover, I had to go back for more, unable to tear myself completely away. These stories by Ruocco necessitate time and re-reading, making this short volume well worth exploration.
—Kevin Kane, Word Riot
This is a marvelous sequence of linked stories deftly portraying those animals inside of us which long ago tracked down and ate our inner child. A wry book that combines the obsessive music of Lydia Davis and the stripped precision of Muriel Spark, Man’s Companions is not to be missed.
Reading this work I imagine what it must have been like for people reading Donald Barthelme for the first time, that fully formed stylist suddenly sprung as if from nothing, this vision or version of the world that is our world and also isn’t–it’s wonderful and peculiar and radiant and much funnier and maybe a little bit sadder. Each of Ruocco’s tales is its own little triumph.
Joanna Ruocco is the author of Man’s Companions from Tarpaulin Sky, as well as A Compendium of Domestic Incidents (Noemi Press) and The Mothering Coven (Ellipsis Press).
Read more at our author page for Joanna Ruocco.