Reviewed by Linda Braus
C. Kubasta’s Abjectification: Stories & Truths is a compulsive page turner. From the early pages, stories like “Freak Show” focus on intertwined characters who have a lot to cover up, whether intricately linked lines or devastating truths. In so doing, they draw the reader to experience a morbidly increasing curiosity alongside characters weighing what they know, what they don’t know, if it matters to them, and how much.
From tattoos to teeth, characters throughout this collection often have something physical to hide. Even if the secret-keeper is the narrator, they might not be sure why they hide things, or at least they aren’t honest about it. What do we tell others to craft our realities? What do we leave out? Which lies do we tell?
Kubasta’s stories make concrete an uneasy feeling that the answers to these questions can often be dark. At times marrying the grotesque to the sensual, the prose might spur readers to flip faster, heart racing, jaw agape, and barely able to pause as they reach the end of a story in a race to see what serpentine portrait comes next.
Both parts of the book, divided into “Primary Embodiments” and “The Monstrous Feminine”, offer standout stories to consider for days. In the first part, for example, “The Luck and Misfortune of Others” offers increasingly different scenarios for the common inconvenience of waiting out a storm, starting with the worries of a tornado or rude neighbors and ending with a surprisingly dark proposal for “what probably happened” that leaves just the right amount unsaid for wondering.
In the latter part, two stories in particular stick out as they consider the implications of fantastical disappearances of women. They offer a view of which parts of them are indeed “monstrous” or what and who make up the monsters around them. “Treasure Hunt” and “Boundaries” begin as charming stories in beautiful scenarios (a beloved child’s birthday and a scenic getaway shared by friends, respectively) that give way to a stimulating sadness as they circle back to core questions of perspective. Altogether, these stories are ones to ruminate on.
Linda Braus is a Midwestern expat living in Queens, NY. By day, she works in academic book publishing (Monday-Friday) and wanders around the city (Saturday-Sunday); by night she reads and/or doomscrolls. You can follow her on Twitter @lindabraus.