The citizens of Plainfield, Texas, have had it with the broke-down United States. So they vote to secede, rename themselves America in memory of their former country, and happily set themselves up to receive tourists from their closest neighbor: America. Couldn?t happen? Well, it might, and so it goes in the thirteen stories in Matthew Baker?s brilliantly illuminating, incisive, and heartbreaking collection Why Visit America.
The book opens with a seemingly traditional story in which the speculative element is extremely minimal?the narrator has a job that doesn?t actually exist?a story that wouldn?t seem much out of place in a collection of literary realism. From there the stories get progressively stranger: a young man breaks the news to his family that he is going to transition?from an analog body to a digital existence. A young woman abducts a child?her own?from a government-run childcare facility. A man returns home after committing a great crime, his sentence being that his memory?his entire life?is wiped clean. As the book moves from universe to universe, the stories cross between different American genres: from bildungsroman to rom com, western to dystopian, including fantasy, horror, erotica, and a noir detective mystery. Read together, these parallel-universe stories create a composite portrait of the true nature of the United States and a Through the Looking-Glass reflection of who we are as a country.
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