Some roses disguise themselves as roses; they want to be misunderstood. Some roses covet what other flowers have. Some roses wither as soon as you say their name.
-from Some Roses and Their Phantoms (after Dorothea Tanning's Some Roses and their Phantoms, 1952), in We Bury the Landscape
Kristine Ong Muslim's We Bury the Landscape (Queen's Ferry Press, April 2012) is a gallery walk through a modern art collection; an immersion in surrealist whimsy; a fantastical, surprising, Mary Poppins-journey deep into the interior of a sidewalk painting - and popped - just as quickly - right out again.
The tiny stories in We Bury the Landscape are inspired by selected works from artists such as Julie Heffernan, Otto Rapp, Joan Miro, Rene Magritte, Vladimir Kush, Odilon Redon, Salvador Dali, and many others. Discovering the art was, for me, part of the great joy of reading. Throughout the opening half of the book, and particularly with artists or paintings that were unfamiliar, I couldn't help but google each inspiring work as I read. (Muslim has since helpfully compiled links to all the paintings on her blog.)
Muslim not only has an eye for seeing in the art some of the details an average observer might miss, but also the skill to craft charming stories that can stand alone in their own right. Above all, her imagination is stunning: In these stories, she takes us absolutely everywhere, from the minds of crumpled roses on a table, to an ill-fated hike on a trail, to the inner life of a misunderstood spider-boy, to a girl-sphinx, to a world in peril, and beyond.
For some of us more linear-thinking, slower to transition readers, the effect of so much fantasy in such brief stories can be a little overwhelming. I enjoyed We Bury the Landscape best at a leisurely pace, as if meandering through an actual art gallery, lingering over a few paintings and stories at a time, savoring one, and then another. The creativity in this collection is a wonderful antidote to any kind of a rut, a surplus of reality, or an artistic deficit. Recommended for readers who love daring art and inventive short stories.
We Bury the Landscape (Queen’s Ferry Press) and several chapbooks, most recently Insomnia (Medulla Publishing). Her short fiction and poetry appeared in hundreds of publications, received three Honorable Mentions in Year's Best Fantasy and Horror, and garnered multiple nominations for the Pushcart Prize, Dzanc Books’ Best of the Web 2011, and the Science Fiction Poetry Association's Dwarf Stars Award and Rhysling Award. Her work has been published and anthologized in many fine places, including Contrary Magazine, Existere, Narrative Magazine, Sou’wester, Southword, The Pedestal Magazine, and hundreds of genre venues, from Abyss & Apex to One Buck Horror. Her online home is http://kristinemuslim.weebly.com.
Many thanks to the author for a complimentary review copy of We Bury the Landscape.
(Update - you may also be interested in this far more brilliant review of We Bury the Landscape by Michelle Bailat-Jones over at Necessary Fiction.)