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22 Jul 4:00am

Objects of Desire by Clare Sestanovich review – stories of self-definition

The Guardian
A debut collection from a writer with an outsize gift for metaphor is almost too self-aware In a rundown shared house “that other people thought romantic”, a woman is sitting on a bed, chatting to a friend. They are young, not long out of college, self-conscious; she is drifting through the summer, composing emails to her high-school English teacher, wondering if her friend, if she told him, would think this to be “in character”. “I knew I should permit myself uncharacteristic actions, but when I did act – and in general I thought about acting more than I acted – I wanted to know if I was acting like me.” Above them, “the remnants of a glow-in-the-dark solar system clustered around the overhead light … The adhesive on the stars was slowly coming off. A comet’s tail wilted, Saturn’s rings peeled at the edges.” Sometimes, when she wakes up in the morning, there’s “a star or an orb or a planet’s ring on the pillow beside me. I had to remind myself not to make everything into a metaphor.” In this debut collection, Clare Sestanovich displays both an outsize gift for metaphor (over and again, the seemingly mundane arriving with arms full of meaning) and for what is not quite irony, but a kind of invisible running commentary: a flattering nudge to the reader that only deepens the effect. So, early in the first story, “Annunciation”, a young woman about to graduate from college dates a virgin. “Exams are over, and no one has anything left to do except go to parties and throw things away.” The reader will assume this includes virginity, so the narrator adds, deliberately, “On the sidewalk, there are lamps without lampshades and posters without frames”, which only underlines the point.
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