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amina cain is the author of two collections of stories: Creature and I Go To Some Hollow (Les Figues, 2009). Her writing has appeared in numerous publications, including the Paris Review Daily, n+1, Everyday Genius, and Two Serious Ladies. She lives and works in Los Angeles, where she sometimes curates readings and events as a member of Betalevel, a basement space in L.A.’s Chinatown. Read more about her at her website.
“Amina Cain is a beautiful writer. Like the girl in the rear view mirror in your backseat, quiet, looking out the window half smiling, then not, then glancing at you, curious to her. That is how her thoughts and words make me feel, like clouds hanging with jets, and knowing love is pure.” thurston moore
Amina Cain’s Creature brings together short fictions set in the space between action and reflection, edging at times toward the quiet and contemplative, at other times toward the grotesque or unsettling. Like the women in Jane Bowles’s work, Cain’s narrators seem always slightly displaced in the midst of their own experiences, carefully observing the effects of themselves on their surroundings and of their surroundings on themselves. Other literary precursors might include Raymond Carver and John Cage, some unlikely concoction of the two, with Carver’s lucid prose and instinct for the potency of small gestures and Cage’s ability to return the modern world to elementary principles. These stories offer not just a unique voice but a unique narrative space, a distinct and dramatic rendering of being-in-the-world.
Check out reviews of Creature at Vice and Word Riot and in the Los Angeles Times. Read excerpts at n+1 and in BOMB and an interview with Amina at HTMLGiant. Finally, here’s a great conversation between Amina and Renee Gladman at BOMBlog.
“This collection of stories is as muted as falling snow and, like snow, drapes a reader’s mental landscape in hushed mystery.” Stephen Sparks
“[Amina Cain’s characters] are like people who have narrowly escaped disaster. Shell-shocked and clothed in tatters, they slip away to a quiet place — not to escape the feeling of having survived something extraordinary but to nurture it.” los angeles times
“Cain captures a particular kind of attempt at happiness: trying to be easy on oneself; praying at a Zen monastery; focusing on small pleasures like orchids and neatly folded towels. Perhaps that’s why, in both form and content, so much here is microscopic, with a delicate sadness infusing mundane activities like bathing, spilling olive oil, and touching a wall . . . Cain’s tone—unknowing, exhibiting the most awed reverence toward the smallest details of life and thought—remains wonderfully effective throughout.” publishers weekly
“Cain’s characters seem to live accidentally, stumbling into or out of vaguely defined situations—a cut on a hand, a stay at a monastery, a visit to a what? a ranch? a corral? The haphazardness of the narratives, the hesitance of the narrator, and the refusal to do more with the material offered, coalesce into a finely composed absence, a vast negative space around a spare, almost negligible frame . . . [Cain’s] unsentimental writing also exposes a world of sentiment, so that [her] play with form opens into a depth of emotional engagement” word riot
“To know what it is to know is possibly the hardest thing to achieve on the page; for a book to move from language to cognizance to real life body and soul skin and bones. Creature, Amina Cain’s second collection of short stories, is a book that bears such magic, and I can say that I can feel it in my skin and bones. Amina’s stories are quiet and vibrant, each revealing the hidden trauma of its characters or narrators so casually, it magnifies the terror. There is always something underneath the surface in her prose, that softly explodes in its own intimate magnitude, her sentences pitch-perfect crescendos.” fanzine
“To be among Amina Cain’s creatures is to stand in the presence of what is mysterious, expansive, and alive. Whether these distinctly female characters are falling in and out of uncanny intimacies, speaking from the hidden realms of the unconscious, seeking self-knowledge, or becoming visible in all their candor and strangeness, they move through a universe shaped by the gravitational pull of elusive yet resilient forces—the yin-dark energies of instinct and feeling that animate creative life. It’s here that the intuitive reach of fiction meets the reader’s own quest for understanding, through the subtle beauty of living the truth of one’s experiences in the most attentive and unadorned way possible.” pamela lu
“Cain’s remarkable ability to render thoughts and observations simply and precisely carries the reader. Each scene accrues a rising sense of tension as it continues, without any sort of narrative twist or jut, and no reliance on internet memes or name brands for content. There’s not a sense of obsession with the self as much as there is a sense of the self unharbored, left living in a strangely ageless world somewhere between Emily Dickinson and David Lynch.” blake butler
“We’d read anything Dorothy puts out, so well-curated is the micro-publishing company (releasing only two new books every fall), but we’re especially excited for this story collection by the gifted Los Angeles writer of I Go to Some Hollow.” timeout chicago
“Cain [is] a fascinating and unique young writer.” askmen
“Amina’s stories are mysterious, full of curiosity, and very dark and then suddenly extremely funny.” htmlgiant
“Cain takes a lot of risks in her book by redefining plot and creating so many narrators who are unknowable and generally unfamiliar. But the risks pay off in sheer beauty, and in Creature, she has created a beautiful monster indeed.” the collagist
“Amina Cain’s stories are quiet. Her characters — can I call them creatures? — live in a suspended, in-between space, hovering on the edge of self-realization.” full stop
“Cain has that rare and glorious knack of the perfect last line—one after another, her drily funny, mysterious, and beautiful stories end with a knife straight to the heart.” the rejectionist
“What impresses me about Cain’s writing is her ability to say so much in such small and quiet spaces. Her stories are very short, some only two-three pages, and yet she writes in a way that feels so expansive and uncontainable. They are the type of stories that would collapse in on themselves if allowed to continue for longer, and that, I think, is what gives them so much power. In a world of endless opportunities to share our every unfiltered thought it is refreshing to see someone doing more with less. And doing it well.” publik / private
“Although Cain’s stories seem at first reading to interfere with the typical operation of plot and character, Creature offers something more instructive: A study in how mood and tone and unconventional characters can bend the form and content of the short story. In both composition and meaning, her stories enlighten and lead us toward a greater humanity of value and goodness.” bookscover2cover
Untitled by Catherine Lemblé
Catherine Lemblé was born and lives in Belgium. She recently earned her Master’s degree in photography from LUCA School of Arts in Brussels. Next year she will study graphic design at LUCA School of Arts in Ghent. Her work is influenced by her fascination with mountains, solitude, wanderlust, music, and youth. You can find more of her work at her website.