Chang has a special talent for forging history into myth and myth into present-day fiction ... Some of the stories are less conventional than others ... Gods of Want is unified by recurrences of word and image ... The recurrences create the sense across the stories of a shared history — of colonization of land and language, of immigration, of desire — as well as a shared wealth and depth of myths through which to view the world’s cruelties and glories alike.
The fierce little machines found in the Taiwanese American writer K-Ming Chang’s first collection, Gods of Want...feel so unexpected: Each one is possessed of a powerful hunger, a drive to metabolize the recognizable features of a familiar world and transform them into something wilder, and achingly alive ... Chang pushes language into strange, roiling reversals, eroding its given meanings ... At times, the rhythmic, idiosyncratic nature of these transformations can feel somewhat repetitive, but the insistent quality of Chang’s aesthetic is a powerful gesture in and of itself ... Chang channels the churn, the precarity, the ambient disquiet and threat of disappearance that are part of the émigré experience into sinewy text that mirrors this deep fungibility. It’s a voracious, probing collection, proof of how exhilarating the short story can be.
... resists words like 'magical' and 'mythical' and 'dreamlike' because it takes magic, myth, and dreams so seriously. Given that so many new books include those words or others (from 'fabulous' to 'innovative') on their covers and in their blurbs, when new fiction arrives that really demands them, clarification is needed. No, no…this is the real deal. For better and worse, Gods of Want actually tries to be new, to see what a short story can hold. The collection is, refreshingly, very strange ... Because Chang’s fiction doesn’t really recognize a distinction between the magical and nonmagical, the invisible lines between familiar categories—natural and supernatural, or dangerous and loving—smear and run like watercolors ... Despite Bestiary’s success, Gods of Want’s 16 stories suggest that the short story is the form best suited to Chang’s fiction ... Chang takes so well to the short story because its compression intensifies the effect of her style. The short story’s limitations of size and scope allow things we might consider smaller than plot and character (like voice, setting, or tone) to be a story’s engine, its featured attraction. In other words, the boundedness of the short story works as the taut wire for Chang’s acrobatics of language and image. Like a stage or a playing field, the form of the short story establishes the limited space where things occur. Where Bestiary occasionally sprawls through generations, countries, and magical incarnations, Gods of Want’s best stories narrow their apertures ... In some places Gods of Want works less well, and these moments point to the difficulty of Chang’s highwire act. The stories almost always end the same, with mysterious rituals and shadowy images, everything suspended. Sometimes these endings, their lack of closure, feel appropriate; sometimes they feel a little generic, interchangeable. Occasionally Chang lingers too long, makes one move too many ... Chang’s characters, like all her stories in Gods of Want, are hungry for meat and blood—and for love, identity, a world. None of these hungers is metaphorical. Each is simply, magically, another kind of wanting.
Relationships between women—familial, beloved, strange, imagined—dominate queer Taiwanese American Chang’s explosive and bizarre first story collection...Three single-word, deftly exacting descriptors define three sections—'Mothers,' 'Myths,' 'Moths'—which organize 16 tales that challenge immigration and diasporic identity, confront inequity and dysfunction...Chang glides effortlessly between the shocking and quotidian, demanding attention, deserving applause.
Chang returns to the thematic territory of her debut novel in these stories that unthread the tangled relationships between mothers and daughter, aunts and cousins, siblings and lovers in the broadly defined Taiwanese immigrant community now living in California...The stories progress through their antic, sometimes manic, often bloody, muddy, orgasmic, or chewed-up and spit-out paces...Indeed, the ease with which the various narrators shift into poetic transcendence in their workaday descriptions coupled with the linguistic flexibility of non-native idioms repurposed for a new English in a new world is as much a part of the storytelling as the stories themselves...All this together leaves the reader with a lingering sense that language, as well as life, is infinitely adaptable, no matter the ground on which it is given to grow...Lurid, funny, strange, and deftly sorrowing—an important new voice.
Chang returns with a dazzling collection of stories within stories that draw on old myths to embody the heartache and memories of Asian American women...Chang’s bold conceits and potent imagery evoke a raw, visceral power that captures feelings of deep longing and puts them into words. This stellar collection will leave readers hungry for more.