...the world is parsed with a charming exactitude that magnifies all its latent marvels and especially horrors — the blacker and more peculiar these stories get, the funnier they are ... Kleeman, a highly cerebral writer, is especially fascinated by the oddness of bodies ... Kleeman’s stories [are] brilliantly alive.
The stories in Alexandra Kleeman’s new collection, Intimations, both distressingly and beautifully convey a different message: there is no escape ... [Kleeman] manages to both draw us entirely into her fiction and keep us at a distance, as spectators glancing through a window or walking through the stories like ghosts able to walk through walls.
Intimations casts a philosophical eye on the short story; collections are rarely so cerebrally interlinked, with ideas — instead of character, setting, voice — as the driving connection between stories ... While hesitation and indecision are consistent themes, when mixed with the fabulist, surreal terms of many of the settings, the stories risk seeming whimsically thin, willfully strange. Kleeman’s clear ability to conjure the bizarre along with her obvious intellect can obscure her craft at times ... When Kleeman’s gift for delving into other worlds merges with characters marked by action, however, the stories excel, as in the final story in the collection, 'You, Disappearing.' Among the deluge of apocalyptic stories in contemporary fiction, this one is exceptional in its vision.
About half of the stories in the collection are realistic rather than absurd, but they still make use of Kleeman’s economic style ... In her first short story collection, Kleeman’s breadth as a writer is on display. She writes surreal scenes that are emotionally resonant and realistic stories that are affecting in their strangeness.
In their cold, fantastic minimalism, these first stories recall the work of Aimee Bender or Robert Coover ... These stories [in section 2] are naturalistic, if quirky: more Rivka Galchen than Bender.Kleeman proves herself an skilled conjurer of familiar life ... Save for a few standouts, the stories are not as strong, individually, as their original publications (The New Yorker, The Paris Review) might suggest. Several pieces obstruct more than they aid in explication ... Kleeman is masterful at the sentence level. At the book level, she is ambitious and inventive. Once she works out the interstitials, she’ll be spawning imitators of her own.
Yes, the language was beautiful, captivating even. But what was the point of the story? And, of course, I would ask myself, does there have to be a point? Can’t a story just be about the language, the imagery, and the raw emotional power it evokes? But you have to know all of this walking into Intimations. You have to know that you’re going to be reading a very interesting and challenging author, and like most challenging, impressionistic fiction, it’s not going to be for everyone. But for those willing to take the trip, this collection is going to be well worth your time.
...[an] uneven but often impressive collection ... Ms. Kleeman’s stories often feel as though they’re being told by someone who has suddenly become aware of being in a dream ... The stories in the book are divided into three sections. Those in the middle are more conventionally structured — and brilliantly executed, proving that Ms. Kleeman is adept at more than oddity. Reading her, you are left feeling dislocated by the world’s strangeness, and wondering if she and her discombobulated characters are really the sane ones.
Kleeman’s scary stories have a gentle comic edge. She has a gothic imagination and a wit keen to the absurdities of American culture — particularly its dietary vices and media horror shows. She can do realism, but not without a few screws coming loose ... There’s some stunning imagery, but the logic at work can be hard to detect ... The final sequence of stories is as eclectic as the first but more successful...and Kleeman strikes the perfect combination of comic and macabre.
...strange and compelling ... the most satisfying of this collection’s stories are the ones that are built on familiar foundations: the juggling act of taking a baby for a stroll; the impulsive, petulant, unwise flirtation that comes after a lovers’ quarrel; the invitation made to a stranger out of loneliness. These stories are complex and lovely, filled with real moments and strange abstractions and parallels that lend further authenticity and resonance to the narratives. Even in the tricky stories, though, the opaque ones, there is much to be admired.