A review of

In a Bear’s Eye

by Yannick Murphy

Central question: What part of a person’s life most makes them who they are?
Format: 160 pp., paperback; Size: 5.5" x 8.5"; Price: $13.95; Publisher: Dzanc Books; Editor: Keith Taylor; Print run: 2,500; Representative sentence: At first, the mother told the girl that she could not go, but then the mother told her that if it was something the girl wanted to see, then the mother would go with the girl, and the mother thought that seeing the house where the family was actually killed might stop the girl from every once in a while, while they were eating dinner or watching television, might stop the girl from lying out on the floor in the way one of the bodies was found and saying to her mother, ‘Guess who I am now, the father or the daughter or the mother?’”

As the story goes, a young female student once approached the notorious Gordon Lish in the halls outside his classroom at NYU after being told she’d have to wait a year to study with him. She said, “I’m Yannick Murphy, and I’m not supposed to be here.” Lish replied, “You’re in.”

It is for just this sort of boldness that Murphy’s fiction sings. In a Bear’s Eye, the follow-up to last year’s magnificent Here They Come, offers twenty-four pristinely chiseled stories, each between two and nine pages long. The scenarios in these pieces bulge with death: in “Legacies” a sick woman’s children dicker for what they will take when she’s gone; in “The Only Light to See By” a mother’s young daughter obsesses over the crime scene of a family murdered just down the street. But while many pieces of fiction can be encapsulated by their premise, what makes these stories so kinetic is not what they are but how they’re told—the strange meat stuffed to their bones—and the way any probability or expectation is swiped out from under the reader’s feet.

We hope you enjoy this excerpt.

To read the full piece, please visit our store to purchase a copy of the magazine.

—Blake Butler

Blake Butler has been published or has work forthcoming in Ninth Letter, Fence, Black Warrior Review, and Willow Springs. He lives in Atlanta. His blog is at blakebutler.blogspot.com.

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