FIGHT NO MORE
By Lydia Millet
209 pp. W.W. Norton & Company. $24.95.
“Home” is a phrase that may conjure emotions of security and belonging. The very sound suggests a cushty embrace; the exhale is sort of a sigh of reduction. But the canny and daring author Lydia Millet is not any sentimentalist, and in “Fight No More,” her new assortment of linked tales, she explores the fragility and treachery of a spot that may provide each solace and deception.
Millet’s boldly playful and intellectually charged physique of labor combines lightning bolts of emotional acuity, moments of exact poetry and subversively darkish comedy together with investigations of existential concepts and real-world issues. The ambitions of her newest aren’t any much less far-reaching. The tales’ activating character is Nina, a younger actual property agent in Los Angeles. Nina meets all types — a girl who fancies herself a vampire and retains blood in her fridge, a suicidal rock star, a girl who hallucinates that tiny males are renovating her home out from underneath her. Jeremy, an adolescent, stung by his father’s desertion and offended that he and his mom should transfer out of their dwelling, occasions his masturbation periods in order that when Nina and her purchasers open the door to his bed room, they’re handled to a shock. Aleska, Jeremy’s grandmother, a retired tutorial, should promote her beloved dwelling and transfer in with Jeremy’s father, his sweetly naïve younger spouse and their new child. The couple need an au pair to take care of the toddler, and Jeremy suggests Lexie, a teenage woman whose on-line intercourse website he patronizes. Lexie has fled her dwelling and a stepfather whose sexual obsession together with her is the topic of one among the assortment’s most unnervingly uncooked items.
Formally, a linked assortment means that which means lies not in any particular person story however in the philosophical joins that join them, and Millet gives her characters with the want to know the fractures of their lives in a bigger context. Aleska, whose household perished in the Holocaust, has spent a lifetime learning the aesthetics and attraction of fascist artwork. Desire and degradation are additionally points Lexie confronts. While displaying a home, Nina, raised however largely deserted by a mentally ailing mom, helps to save lots of the depressed musician from drowning. In the aftermath, Nina feels “the euphoria drain away. What stayed was almost like grief. It was true someone had been saved, but who was saved and who was left?”
This query of relative achieve is subtly threaded by way of the tales. “A person might want to be free to do something to you, often,” Nina considers. “One man’s freedom was another man’s aggravated assault.” It is a sentiment that not solely has sickening resonance once we meet Lexie’s predatory stepfather, however one which additionally troubles the hearts of tales that discover a fancy set of concepts together with the relationship between sexual and political pornography, the ache of others and the methods by which we mistake the ersatz for the actual. Aleska mourns the lack of her beloved dwelling that she has common as a bulwark towards the trauma of her previous, however she additionally understands that it provided her son no safety from her inadvertently wounding habits. “What we do to our children,” she muses. “She herself, what had she done? Benign neglect. Lost in the daydreams. Sometimes nightmares. The sedimentation of everyday life.”
Life can’t be absolutely reckoned with, Millet suggests on this shimmering and brilliantly engaged assortment, until we embrace the reality that there’s at all times a snake in even the most serene of gardens.