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Hold Your Fire (Chloe Wilson, Scribner)

Hold Your Fire is the incisive and darkly funny fiction debut by Melbourne poet Chloe Wilson, author of Not Fox Nor Axe and The Mermaid Problem. The 17 stories in Hold Your Fire are united by their thematic focus on the gruesomeness of the body, the vacuity of the upper middle classes and the darkness inherent in the human psyche. Wilson’s narrators—mostly first person and female—are swept up in the bizarre behaviour of others, often repressing their own impulses. In Hold Your Fire women try to erase themselves through degrading relationships with awful men; a teen with a dark past babysits for a yuppie couple; a weapons engineer grapples with her disdain for her husband and child. The inventive plots are secondary to the astute, detailed psychological portraits in each story. Throughout, Wilson constantly reminds us that no matter how much we are in our own heads, there is no escaping our bodies: dandruff, kidney stones, faecal transplants—we’re all just bags of blood. We are deep inside the narrator’s head until we aren’t, the interiority punctured by unexpected moments of violence—a bloody diving accident, a kangaroo becoming roadkill, the discovery of bodies in an incinerator—rupturing the mundane and exposing everyday life for what it really is: an existential carnival of the grotesque. Reminiscent of the detached gallows humour of A M Homes, Mary Gaitskill or Samanta Schweblin, Hold Your Fire is for those who relish nasty German fairytales and secretly watching Embarrassing Bodies.

Kelsey Oldham is an editor of Books+Publishing.


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