Child Boot Camps, Coming of Age literature, Fiction, Jane Austen, Karen Joy Fowler, PM Press, Science Fiction authors, Short Stories, small presses, The Science of Herself, Women's Literature, Writers, Writing, WWASPS
PM Press is a very small press founded in 2007. It publishes fiction and non-fiction. As part of its Outspoken Authors series published authors submit a few short stories, a biographical interview, and offer their insight into writing or about issues of concern to them. A number of authors in the series seem to be drawn from the science fiction genre. Karen Joy Fowler, the author of “The Science of Herself” mostly writes science fiction or fantasy, for which she has garnered numerous literary awards. She is slightly stretching into “mainstream” short stories with this submission. She is at the borderline between reality and science fiction in “The Pelican Bar”. This story, grounded in boot camps for children, is chilling in its debasement. She reveals in one of the interviews the influence of Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib in part, but more directly, the World Wide Association of Specialty Programs (WWASP), Tranquility Bay in Jamaica and High Impact in Mexico. There are websites for survivors of these programs (e.g., http://www.wwaspsurvivors.com).
Ms. Fowler also reveals that she has been given a key to the Baseball Hall of Fame. She has written a nicely told coming of age, single Mom, story in “The Further Adventures of the Invisible Man.” Contrary to expectation, the young boy hates baseball. There is real feeling expressed between a Mom trying to balance her life with a maturing young boy for whom she deeply cares.
The first story reminded me of my recent review of “The Signature of All Things”. It is a 19th Century tale about a young girl who hits a very low glass ceiling as a female archaeologist. Like the botanist in “The Signature of All Things” she lives a spinster’s life, but is more in the shadow of men because she is lower economic class. Ms. Fowler apparently wrote a well-received novel, “The Jane Austen Book Club” and Jane Austen figures prominently in this story. The story has a nice ending in this regard.
The sampling of Ms. Fowler’s capable writing offered in this very short book encourages me to seek out more of her widely published works. I would recommend this short book if you could find it, or other offerings by Ms. Fowler.