SPECTACLE: Susan Steinberg’s Short, Sweet, Angry Book of Stories

Plus, it’s got a nice cover so you’ll look cool reading it…

As a Graywolf Press intern I’m pretty much obligated to faun over their new releases; however, this book took me by surprise. I wasn’t expecting to be nearly so engaged or so challenged by Susan Steinberg’s short stories. This book is a must-read for thinkers, over-analyzers and feminists. There’s something about the complexity of the stories and their lingering influence that I can’t quite capture in words. BUT I’m an English nerd so I still tried:

In this short story collection, Steinberg offers a sketch of the 21st-century woman that delves into the deep insecurity and vulnerability that lingers at the forefront of women’s thoughts. The stories include moments of indecision, infidelity and abuse that take the reader on a tumultuous and thought-provoking journey. These insights are tempered by a steady strength that underlies the narrator’s point of view. Despite the dysfunctional subject matter, Steinberg reaches to the core of something; extracting meaning from horror.

Her stories are also layered with an understanding of their semiotic implications. (In her notes, Steinberg mentions that “the story ‘Signifier’ alludes to Lacan’s and Hegel’s thoughts on desire and recognition”.) The stories deal with death, lust and pride and voyeurism. Threaded throughout is the speaker’s desire to impress her errant father and to exert control  through sex. These topics are followed by reflection on a plane crash victim, and the pivotal decision to take her ailing father off life support.

Spectacle is a sophisticated text with a gritty, relatable feel. These tremendous stories warrant re-reading.


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