Øyehaug seems to be having a great deal of fun here, with both her craft and her audience, though never at the expense of either. Characters repeatedly address the reader directly, and Øyehaug herself chimes in on occasion ... Dickson is having fun here, too, in her fourth English-language translation of Øyehaug's work. Her adroitness is visible in countless subtle word choices ... Yet caprice doesn't equal frivolity. Evil Flowers was published in Norway in 2020, but many of these stories channel the gloomy, questioning, post-pandemic nostalgia and existential angst many of us feel.
Many of the stories in Evil Flowers... dismantle and reconstitute narrative structures, questioning the need for a story to have a unitary message ... Øyehaug isn’t satirizing fiction — she takes her job seriously. But she wants to question the nature of our emotional responses to it ... For all its intellect and effort to tinker with narrative, very little of Evil Flowers feels airily schematic or dryly satirical, the way much postmodern writing does. She can be overtly playful ... But the prevailing mood is one of a heartfelt desire to press at the edges of story, to acknowledge our self-cancelling urges as readers: We want satisfying conclusions, but we hold pat endings in contempt, and the studied ambiguity of lit-fic endings can feel like its own sort of dead end.
In this charming and inventive collection, Øyehaug... plays with narrative conventions to dazzling effect ... Øyehaug often takes a postmodern swerve, highlighting how stories can be used to distance readers from their emotions but also to acknowledge and process them. This scintillating collection shouldn’t be missed.