Fiction. This debut collection by Meghan Lamb opens with the demolition of a building called the "Hi-Point": with the "destruction [and] construction of an empty space." From an uncanny "Atomic Museum" in the desert to a dying-off peepshow to a far-flung, falling apart hoarder house, these stories examine a series of spaces wherein external strangeness mirrors internal conflict. With quietly charged, unflinching prose, Lamb observes our "most private places": the elusive, often unnameable accumulations with which we fill our emptiness.
There is a lot of space in Meghan Lamb’s writing. This space brings a detached quality to her prose—a certain level of maintained distance—as in the fiction of Marguerite Duras or Anna Kavan (two of Lamb’s named influences, whom she wears well). And yet rather than restrict, this space in between and around lines allows one’s feelings to expand in response to the fertile substrate created by the writer. It is atmospheric writing—clear to a point but gauzy at the edges. Characters are often unnamed or assigned anonymous signifiers like Night Staff and Day Staff, or the older sister and the younger sister, or nothing more than pronouns. Lamb’s writing slows down my reading—a lowering in speed that I crave more than usual these days. Something deep inside me connects to the precision, the deliberateness of her sentences, even in the few pieces in here that were not among my favorites. Aesthetically the book is a well-constructed collection, divided into four sections. The organization of the pieces exhibits evidence of careful consideration. There are a few longer, novella-length stories, including Sacramento, previously published by M. Kitchell’s Solar Luxuriance imprint; some shorter stories; and a few brief pieces along the line of prose poetry. These latter pieces serve to break up the longer ones. They didn’t always do much for me on their own, but I appreciated their role in the collection as a whole. In general, the first-person pieces were less successful in my mind, but as the majority of the collection is written in some variant of third-person perspective, this was of little consequence to my overall enjoyment. By far this was one of the strongest contemporary short story collections I’ve read lately, and further evidence of Lamb’s growth as a writer. I will certainly be reading along wherever she goes next.
I blurbed this, and it is great! **an unnerving debut** : Only Meghan Lamb could get me this close to the empty. Roving across landscapes and homes evacuated of feeling, the stories in All Your Most Private Places are alive with raw nerve. Lamb captures dubious, uneasy intimacies with the exacting severity of Gaitskill and a radiance all her own. These taut, stunningly controlled tales pivot hypnotically between creeping dread and coldly gleaming light.