Yuknavitch leans heavily on her strengths. Once again, the prose and situations are provocative, transgressive and breathtakingly grotesque ... remains diverse and impactful, unlike some collections, where only a few stories shine ... Yuknavitch’s writing is most effective when fueled by lust, power and rage — or, rather, when she’s trying to drive a point home ... Most of these stories are not for the faint of heart. The sex scenes are raw, intense and often viscerally brutal. Though there are some hopeful endings, many of the characters are staring down a barrel of despair. If safe words and cookie-cutter fiction are more your speed, look elsewhere ... For the rest of you, Verge boldly asks some pressing yet unspoken questions ... It also forces us to acknowledge — and even embrace — the unsettling answers.
With the powers of her prose on full, incandescent display, 6½ pages is all Yuknavitch needs to illuminate the connections between the body and the spirit, the fists and the heart, both beating in their losing battles ... In these 20 efficient and affecting stories, Yuknavitch unveils the hidden worlds, layered under the one we know, that can be accessed only via trauma, displacement and pain. There is a vein of the wisdom of the grotesque throughout ... the damaged beauty of these misfits keeps the reader leaning in.
...it is her realism that shocks the senses ... Her stories startle and repulse even as they provoke the reader’s gaze ... Yuknavitch writes with realism’s gimlet eye and horror’s racing heart ... Yuknavitch grounds her existential questions in the flesh. Her attention to the physical — in particular the human body — defines her aesthetic ... Yuknavitch revels in subtext and shows just how much of the world exists in the imagination, the grinding of those powerful, terrible wheels ... A writer must invent a new language to throw her reader off-balance; you can see Yuknavitch trying fresh approaches as she goes along ... Verge reminds the reader constantly of the fact that even while reading we cannot escape the self, not fully. Yuknavitch expects collaboration. What type of book does this anxious age require? Verge offers an opening gambit, first, see ... Verge contains a succession of mirrors, stories that reflect one way, then another. It’s a kind of antidote to the binary of the present moment, when anxiety drives a hunger for either/or. Yuknavitch delivers no answers, but a series of portraits, moments rendered in vivid detail.
... an incandescent testimonial about lives spent on the margins, on the cusp, on the edge ... Yuknavitch’s writing is visceral and unsettling, the metaphors eloquent and moving ... The author is neither political nor polemic, but her witness-bearing will disquiet readers ... the author is a masterful writer of towering genius. Her comparisons are so intricate, yet heavy, they often require a reread ... Yuknavitch is also eloquent in her depiction of women. The female protagonists are on the run, gnashing and trashing and aching to tell their stories in their own language ... Verge is enthralling and should garner Yuknavitch much-deserved acclaim.
There's a strange quality to Yuknavitch's stories, contradictions that rub up against each other. The stories are indeed strange, but the strangeness can become formulaic ... It all makes for some beautiful sentences, and also some deeply unsatisfying stories ... Too often, Verge often provides a universalizing way of thinking of, say, class or gender by presenting a view of inequality and womanhood so monolithic and flattened that it wards off a reader's investment ... When Verge presents womanhood by not taking the obvious path of contrasting women's actions with male agency, it is deeply insightful and riveting.
It’s easy to compare Verge to other recent collections with mostly female protagonists that dive into the seedier sides of human behavior, sometimes with a slight fantastical twist ... But a good portion of Yuknavitch’s stories decenter the middle-class American experience; these are stories that focus poverty-stricken Eastern Europeans, on those enslaved to the organ black market, on the sex trafficked, on the incarcerated, on the addicted. Yuknavitch does not just focus on the marginalized, but often centers those that live along the margins of the margins ... Yuknavitch pushes the story into unconventional ground ... there’s a sensitivity in Yuknavitch’s writing, in her character-building, whose absence would otherwise make them a dour read. Her prose is tight, her descriptions spare—the result is a precision that feels insightful, and truthful. Yuknavitch’s stories do not wander but are quick, fevered; she knows where each is going, and wastes no time getting there ... The result is a space for readers to sympathize and connect with the protagonists.
...strange, provocative ... In Verge, characters find their meaning and faith in their own bodies, grounded in physicality and anatomy, pain and desire. These stories are daring, provoking, and incendiary.
Her characters are not only on the edges of a transformation, they’re also on the fringes of normality, permanently quarantined on the opposite side of the white-picket-fence ideal ... These are voyeuristic stories inside our very real, very unjust world, in a language that blurs the lines between fantasy and reality ... This intensity does become heavy-handed in a few of Yuknavitch’s pieces: so earnest in their mission of eliciting empathy (and its partner emotion, guilt), that the delight of doing a reader’s detective-work – discovering what is unsaid, piecing themes together – disappears ... Luckily in all the misery within this collection, a sense of hope prevails.
Much of contemporary literary discourse centers around the ebbing divide between the personal and the professional—the widespread recognition that the political, the personal, and the literary are inseparably entwined. It is a long-due reckoning, the result of decades of work by writers and activists from marginalized groups who have fought for the recognition and validity of their personal expression ... The enormous vividness and clarity of Yuknavitch’s characters comes from the voices she gives them. Their voices are inherently political, navigating power dynamics that are stacked against them, structures that use and dehumanize them. But Yuknavitch’s characters see themselves not as victims of circumstance but as agents in complicated social ecosystems—as people with backbones and boundaries, complex traumas and even more complex internal hierarchies of meaning ... freshness and elegance. The seamless merging of the personal with the political and the political with the aesthetic, all three working in concert to form a tight and clear vision of our complicated world—this is the collection that Yuknavitch has given us. Never shying away from discomfort, transgression, or profanity, Yuknavitch directs the reader to corners of the world they would rather avoid, has us meet eyes whose gaze we would rather avoid.
Lydia Yuknavitch has a rare gift for expressing suffering. Her work goes beyond the ordinary discomforts of first world living (though she explores those, too) to the greater horrors that lurk on the edge of mainstream attention. She engages the suffering in that psychic country without prurience or exploitation, and her compassion for her characters creates enormously engaging fiction ... These stories, examining lives far beyond the ordinary, offer real insights into urgent human experiences. They’re deeply evocative, eminently readable, and comprise about two thirds of the book ... Each story in Verge is, on its own, very good. Yuknavitch’s style is engaging, and her characters are emotionally vivid. If the book suffers, it’s only from its own context, and the discomforts it evokes.
...dynamite. What she writes is often shocking (a teenage girl becoming a drug runner and sex object for the town prison in 'Cusp'; a woman willingly burns her own face on a cast iron radiator in 'A Woman Signifying'), but it is also, miraculously, tender. I don’t know of any other writer who can render the brutality of life with such honesty and dazzle ... Yuknavitch is adept at giving her misfit characters voices ... Yuknavitch is brilliantly inventive with her language, and in Verge, she continues to create her own mythos. There is so much that is alive in this book, so much life coursing through these pages ... That Lidia Yuknavitch can create such beauty out of the tragedy of contemporary life is testament to her skill as an artist.
Fans of Lidia Yuknavitch already know all her sentences are consistently some combination of: intense, electric, damp, arresting—this collection of short stories follows that trend. Some are super-short snapshots. Others have a full, pulsing life. And as a collection, they are populated by misfits on the edge of town, people feeling themselves as mammals existing in liminal spaces.
Like the verging border of its title, the collection is peopled by characters who live on the edges—of society, of safety, of sanity. The interests and subject matter of this collection upend normal boundaries and expectations. Outcasts and voiceless figures are placed center-stage. We are able to be a part of their experience, their pain, their rage, and their beauty ... She has a vested and specific interest in the people and the places who do not sit at the center of the mainstream in any sense of that term, who live in the borders of things ... Yuknavitch honors the truths and perspectives of her narrators by building up worlds in which their individual pains and decisions are given context and sense ... Yuknavitch has an incredible gift for description and a knack for embodying the emotions of her characters. The people of this collection are brave and truthful, even when their truths are frightening. These are misfits celebrated, misfits embraced. Yuknavitch invites us to spend time with them and to dwell with them in their in-between spaces. I invite you to do the same. It is time well spent.
Verge simply feels replete. Its stories create a subdermal web that coheres and refracts the collection with motifs of feminism, middle-class imposter syndrome, isolation and more—but those words alone would be reductive to Yuknavitch’s sheer artistry and inimitable inflection as a writer ... With each complex piece of this mosaic, Verge is a fantastic read all around.
These stories are shocking, stark, pulsing; their power lies in their realism, even when the tone turns dreamy and approaches magical realism. Yuknavitch's clear voice, with its unflinching demand that her readers recognize pain as well as beauty, is as precise and distinctive as ever ... she writes about the bright points in a dark world, and while the stories in Verge indeed lean decidedly toward the dark, those memorable points of light define them ... Disturbing and essential, these stories emphasize the forgotten, the pushed aside, the marginalized. Yuknavitch's storytelling is urgent, raw and inspired, and if Verge is a love letter to those on the edge, it is equally important for all of us.
20 short, sharp stories ... Yuknavitch’s imagery is visceral, and the mood skews angry throughout the collection; themes of sexual violence—often against children—may be triggering for readers. But she writes with a darkly beautiful precision, and her compassion for outcasts and damaged souls offers an underlying tenderness while avoiding redemptive clichés ... A dark and often unsettling collection that some readers will find difficult but that will reward those seeking fierce, intimate writing.
...if these stories teach us about lust, they also flip to the other side of that same coin: These are narratives full of deep rage ... Yuknavitch keeps readers’ heads pressed against what is hardest to see, and this doesn’t always land. Some of the rage can feel self-righteous; some of the desire pushes deep into taboo and veers toward unpalatable. But where there are risks, there are rewards ... Gutsy stories from one of our most fearless writers.