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Fantastic Women: 18 Tales of the Surreal and the Sublime from Tin House

3.74  ·  Rating Details ·  163 Ratings  ·  38 Reviews

Fantastic Women comprises eighteen stories by some of the most exciting contemporary women writers in the United States. The daughters of Franz Kafka and Mary Shelley, the Brothers Grimm, and Angela Carter, these inventive, insightful authors steep their narratives in a heady potion of surrealism and macabre black comedy. The result is wildly creative work that captures th

Paperback, 256 pages
Published July 26th 2011 by Tin House Books
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Aug 01, 2012 jess marked it as abandoned
Dear Future Self,
You think you will really like this book based on the description and the authors involved, but you won't like it.
Jess of July 2012

Nov 04, 2016 Amy rated it really liked it
So lovely. Each one worth it, unique. Glad I finally got around to reading this.
This is a case of "exactly what it says on the tin": this is a collection of 18 surreal(ish), slipstream(ish) stories prominently featuring women. (Though I don't think many of these stories passes the Bechdel test. You may have read something by these authors before and you may be interested in finding or avoiding them; so as a public service (since Goodreads doesn't tel us), here's the contents:

Aimee Bender, “Americca”
Kate Bernheimer, “Whitework”
Judy Budnitz, “Abroad”
Sarah Shun-lien Bynum,
Sep 04, 2011 April rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone...
Recommended to April by: Rick Moody
Shelves: favorites
This is one of the best story collections I've read in a while--a lot of weird, fantastic things (werewolves, aliens, metamorphoses, living dolls, etc. etc.) are in here, done in a literary, beautiful, and surprising way.

some of my favorite quotes from the stories:
"There was a long slice of window that ran from floor to ceiling and showed us the spires and towers and crested weather vanes of a city we had never seen before.
It's just a travel poster, he said and tried t
A collection of uncanny and weird tales from talented women writers--what more could you ever want? I must admit that despite this great premise for a collection, I was actually left wanting. The pacing of the stories is slow, especially at the first 1/3 of the book, and I wanted more fantastic/magical realism elements than this anthology offered. Perhaps that's more of a personal taste thing than an actual issue with this publication, but I would've liked to see fantastic in every sense--not ...more
Oct 09, 2011 Kirsten rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: smart chicks who like some fantasy and play, too.
Recommended to Kirsten by: City Lights!
Great collection entirely comprised of up-and-coming (and firmly established) female writers of fantastical, fabulist, and, well...weird fiction. I loved the presentation and careful curation of this book--clearly exciting things are happening at Tin House. Some of the bigger names (Lydia Davis; Miranda July) were represented by fairly slight (dare I say lazy?) pieces, but there were plenty of other gems and new writers to discover. A few stories tended towards the fey or overly cute--always a ...more
Feb 28, 2014 M rated it really liked it
Shelves: short-stories
I borrowed this from the public library on an inter-library loan. It's not the best way to read this kind of collection. It's best taken in small doses, one story at a sitting. Otherwise they lose their edge, and they are edgy stories.

A collection of stories is like a music album. You aren't going to like each selection equally. If there are two or three you really like, a couple of ones you don't care for and the rest are good or OK, the collection is worthwhile. Of the 18 stories, I really lik
Dec 03, 2011 Elizabeth rated it really liked it
This is where literary meets genre, and the impact is sometimes mystifying, sometimes breath-taking, and always beautifully written. These stories demand an active reader, it's tough for me to read more than one a night, and some of them have given me vivid dreams. Highly recommended, but don't expect to read this easily. These stories require your attention in ways standard genre does not. I guarantee this book is not for everyone.
Michelle Despres
Mar 26, 2012 Michelle Despres rated it it was ok
I found this book to be similar to "My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me." In both cases, the stories are creative and well-written. In fact, I would give some stories in this book 4-5 stars. If you like this genre, then you will like this book. It's just not my thing.

"His eyes said he understood all the sadness in the world, and his worn face said he would do everything in his power to defeat it." The Young Wife's Tale by Sarah Shun-lien Bynum.
Dec 06, 2012 Morgan rated it really liked it
Shelves: short-stories
Kate Bernheimer's "Whitework" is perfection.

Other favorites include "Beast" by Samantha Hunt and "Big People" by Gina Zucker. Karen Russell's "The Seagull Army Descends on Strong Beach" was a lot of fun to read, though I couldn't understand the meaning of the ending. Likely my own shortcoming.

I'm not a short story person, but this collection kept me entertained during snatches of down-time at work.
Kaycie Hall
Mar 08, 2012 Kaycie Hall rated it it was amazing
I started this anthology in September, and sadly, it wasn't holding my attention. I don't know if it was front-loaded with stories that simply didn't interest me, or if I just wasn't in the mood for short stories, but I picked it up again about a week ago and promptly finished it.

I especially loved "The Wilds" by Julia Elliot, "Light" by Kelly Link, "The Doll Awakens" by Stacey Richter, "The Seagull Army Descends on Strong Beach" by Karen Russell, and "Big People" by Gina Zucker.
Joseph Hillenbrand
Jan 04, 2014 Joseph Hillenbrand rated it liked it
This collection contains some of my favorite authors (Alissa Nutting, Miranda July among others), but overall I found the stories very hit or miss. Although I enjoy stories that are surreal, that make you a bit uncomfortable, as a reader, you still need some sort of mooring. Something you can still relate to, unless the story is so short that it doesn't matter. But for some of these stories, I had a tough time keeping my bearing
Jul 27, 2012 Amanda added it
An interesting collection of short stories. All of them are strange, a few are disturbing, one or two took most of the story before I realized just what was going on, and some just dropped off and left me asking "Then what happened?" with no distinct ending. I definitely see myself going back for a reread.
Jordan Larson
Sep 20, 2013 Jordan Larson rated it liked it
Interesting plot devices and situations, but I wanted a little more experimental narrative. Many of the stories seemed to deliver "strange" plots in exactly the same way as traditional fiction, but I'd like to see surreal content take a surreal form.
Erin Tuzuner
Dec 18, 2011 Erin Tuzuner rated it really liked it
Tin House never fails to bring intelligent, peculiar and thoroughly moving literature together for a feast of diverse, yet complementary stories. Never have I been transformed in such a short period of time. Haunting, inventive and most of all, lasting, these stories are a beautiful snowstorm.
Elizabeth Hill
Jul 16, 2014 Elizabeth Hill rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorite-lit
I thoroughly enjoyed the bizarre tales in this book. Some were merely enjoyable, others I read and reread until the library made me return the text. Some great lines in this book. Highly recommended.
Paul Andrew  Russell
Oct 02, 2011 Paul Andrew Russell rated it did not like it
Seriously, I wouldn't bother. Only two of the stories held my attention for more than a couple of pages.

The Doll Awakens by Stacey Richter was one. The other, Snow White, Rose Red by Lydia Millet.

I found reading the rest to be sheer torture.
Feb 17, 2012 Andrea rated it really liked it
Beautifully written, intensely imaginative - all 18 of the stories. But not for the faint of heart. In Ursula Le Guin's back-cover blurb, where she says the stories are often "subtly disturbing," I think she could have dropped the "subtly."
Bill Hsu
Nov 07, 2015 Bill Hsu rated it liked it
Great to see recent stories from Budnitz, Richter and Slavin; I really enjoyed their collections years ago, always wondering what they've been up to. The Elliot, Link and Nutting pieces are great, but also included in their last collections (all favorites of mine).
Tantra Bensko
Jan 01, 2014 Tantra Bensko rated it it was amazing
Great choices, and a helpful book for people looking to round out their favorite authors to include women. There are great ones out there, just harder to find because of less attention on them. This is a perfect place to start looking.
Jan 19, 2015 Christi rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2015
Because this book was an anthology of tales by different authors, I liked some stories better than others, but it was fun to read literary stories with female characters and an altered-reality slant. My favorites included Americca, The Wilds, Oranges, and Snow White, Rose Red.
Amy Jensen
Jan 20, 2013 Amy Jensen rated it really liked it
Shelves: short-stories
Impulse checked out from the library on my kindle since Tin House is a small press and I wanted to find a new author. My favorite was Karen Russell's, The Seagull Army Descends on Strong Beach. I didn't like quite a few of the stories but I expected that.
Jul 24, 2012 Andrea rated it really liked it
Great collection of fantasy fiction with a touch of sci-fi. I like the story of sisters whose home has small gifts magically appear on their table and their kitchen mysteriously filled with food.
Oct 07, 2013 Didi rated it really liked it
Shelves: stories

"Americca" by Aimee Bender
"Abroad" by Judy Budnitz
"Light" by Kelly Link
"The Doll Awakens" by Stacey Richter
"Drive-Through House" by Julia Slavin
"Big People" by Gina Zucker
Feb 12, 2016 Connor rated it liked it
Pretty decent mix of stories, with clear influences of Kafka, Borges, and Carter. Nothing particularly memorable but all around an enjoyable read.
Sep 25, 2013 Julia rated it it was amazing
Great collection. Highlights for me were "Beast" by Samantha Hunt, "Oranges" by Miranda July, "Light" by Kelly Link, and "The Seagull Army Descends on Strong Beach" by Karen Russell.
Meg Gee
Jun 29, 2016 Meg Gee rated it it was amazing
The penultimate story was ehhh, but the rest were killer. Great collection. I feel more fantastic after reading it.
Maud rated it it was amazing
Nov 07, 2011
Carmen rated it it was amazing
Sep 02, 2011
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Rob Spillman is Editor and co-founder of Tin House, a sixteen-year-old bi-coastal (Brooklyn, New York and Portland, Oregon) literary magazine. He is the 2015 recipient of the PEN/Nora Magid Award for Editing as well as the 2015 VIDO Award from VIDA. Tin House is the recipient of the 2015 Firecracker Award for General Excellence and has been honored in Best American Stories, Best American Essays, ...more
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