2006 Michael L Printz Honor Book
As part of a public execution, a young boy forlornly helps to sing his sister down. . . . A servant learns about grace and loyalty from a mistress who would rather dance with Gypsies than sit on her throne. . . . A terrifying encounter with a demonic angel gives a young man the strength he needs to break free of his oppressor. . . . On a bleak and dreary afternoon a gleeful shooting spree leads to tragedy for a desperate clown unable to escape his fate. In each of Margo Lanagan's ten extraordinary stories, human frailty is put to the test by the implacable forces of dark and light, man and beast. black juice offers glimpses into familiar, shadowy worlds that push the boundaries of the spirit and leave the mind haunted with the knowledge that black juice runs through us all.
This was such a strange little collection of short stories. All of them started right off in the midst of strange locations or strange cultures, and you had to just figure things out as you went along. And by the time you did, the strange, disturbing little story was over. Everything was very dark and mysterious, and I was sure if I was supposed to like or loathe the protagonists. A little of both. The theme was about tapping into those dark places that everyone has, that you don’t want to quite admit to harboring inside you.
Short stories are interesting, because it seems like authors can sometimes play more with really strange stuff — ideas that would be hard to maintain for an entire novel (in one, the protagonist is an elephant, communicating telepathically with his fellow elephants as they take off in search of their lost keeper). The imagination on display in all of these stories is what fascinates me, and makes me despair, yet again, for seeming to have so little imagination of my own to come up with something unique.
Lanagan is an Australian author, and the other-ness of the little bits of worlds she has created in these short stories is a wonderful change of pace from all of the recent books about New York City.
Her book, Tender Morsels shows up in the 2009 list of honor books, and I’m looking forward to that, as well.