When archivist Sol meets Elsie, the larger than life widow of a moderately famous television writer who's come to donate her wife's papers, there's an instant spark. But Sol has a secret: he suffers from an illness called vampirism, and hides from the sun by living in his basement office. On their way to falling in love, the two traverse grief, delve into the Internet fandom they once unknowingly shared, and navigate the realities of transphobia and the stigmas of carrying the vampire disease.
It’s tempting to slot into the most evident groove of interpretation with Dead Collections: that vampirism is a metaphor for being trans ... But Sol’s story is much messier, much funnier and a lot more interesting than a one-to-one allegory, especially once he meets the sincere, luminescent Elsie ... The story that unfolds around them is equal parts romance and mystery ... Fellman knows exactly to whom he’s writing: the Elsies and Sols of the world, grown-up queer nerds who perhaps once identified as cisgender ... Fellman’s playful but deliberate approach to form, his deft way of presenting his own canon and then transfiguring it on the page, would feel familiar to them ... One of Fellman’s simplest but most effective form experiments is a matter-of-fact pronoun switch: When Elsie and Sol have gender-exploratory sex, the narration transmutes Elsie’s pronouns from 'she' to 'he' until his orgasm, a textual revelation of gender euphoria ... [A] thoughtful, acerbic, bracingly hopeful book.
There’s a magic to Isaac Fellman’s fiction, born of his depth of perception, precise prose and straightforward sense of expression. In his second novel, Dead Collections, his characters’ earnestness and warmth make even the darkest moments beautiful, in a way that will remind the reader of the work of Anne Rice and Stephen Graham Jones ... Through a combination of Sol’s incisive narration, message board entries, script books and other formalist flights of experimentation, Fellman lays out Sol’s and Elsie’s parallel journeys with propulsive, intense focus. The prose unfolds with notable determination, and there’s not a single wasted word, even when Fellman plays with format and frame of reference ... or the way Elsie uses light to mimic the experience of daylight for her vampire friend, Fellman’s style is vivid, specific and deeply evocative. On a sentence level, Dead Collections is a sensual, tactile work, and when combined with Fellman’s confident grasp of his characters, it becomes a wonderful, bittersweet journey in which you may get happily lost.
The instant spark of attraction between Sol and Elsie and the romance that unfolds between them is very sweet, very intimate and very, very queer. In general Sol is a great character, and his voice is the core of the novel. Like Fellman’s previous work, this is a memoir written from a unique point of view, and every part of Sol’s identity is important ... Dead Collections is a...literary achievement, a book so firmly anchored in space and time, and so rooted in queer and trans intimacy that it achieves [a] hyperreal quality.