Winner of the 2011 Hamilton Arts Award for Best Emerging Writer and the 2012 Vanderbilt/Exile Short Fiction Award for her story, Skin, Just, Christine Miscione’s debut short fiction anthology Auxillary Skins (Exile Edition Press) is a strange, grotesquely beautiful collection of fiction that balances experimental fervor and accessibility.
What’s amazing about the work is that there are little, if any, fantastic elements, and yet each story feels so much like some form of genre or sub-genre fiction that, as a reader, you have to remind yourself that while she may push reality to its extremes, Miscione never totally crosses over to the realm of the imaginative.
In the opening piece (the aforementioned Skin, Just), Miscione tells the story of Clara Williamson, who becomes obsessed with what she presumes to be the cancerous nature of a mole growing on her calf until she cuts it off and brings it to the doctor to be tested. In each story, through violence, death, sexuality, and illness, Miscione shows a similar patter emerge—characters trying to achieve some kind of transcendent meaning by using the human body as a point of access only to be stymied by all its absurd grotesquerie.
Her stories, then, can be said to emerge from the intersection between the films of David Cronenberg, with all their attention to the betrayals, mutations, and transformative viscera of the body as lived, and the short fiction of Shirley Jackson in her portraits of the haunting, enigmatic ephemera of life as felt.
Nuanced, insightful, unique, and readable, Auxillary Skins is an excellent debut for the new Canadian author.