Hey all, Ink Heist has made no secret about our Koja love. Along with the great Josh Malerman, she’s one of the finest authors of dark fiction to ever come out of the state of Michigan and, to put it gracefully, she’s a fucking poet. I’m always starstruck by her mastery and the blatant depths of her passion for the English language. When it comes to the great poets I admire the most, one of the very best of them is a fiction writer. Her name is Kathe Koja.
I only have a small group of authors who, as inspirations go, people I consider idols or heroes and Koja is right at the very top of it. I’m going to be bringing you a full review of her new collection, Velocities, out now from one of the best small presses in indie literature, Meerkat Press. It’s been 22 – 23 years or so since her earth-shattering collection, Extremeties, was released and fans have been chomping at the bit for a new one for quite some time in between bouts of raging screams of “Funhole,” and the wait is finally over.
And the book is just as goddamn good or better than Extremities was. If you’ve read it, you’ll know that’s pretty high praise coming from a dedicated fan who tends to be a purist when it comes to classic Koja works, but it’s well-earned because what you have in the new collection is another grouping of classic, poetic horror fiction that could only been born in the darkly beautiful mind of one of our greatest creators, Kathe Koja.
This is a book of cover to cover favorites from an author who has written nothing but favorites and you’d do well to drop whatever the fuck you’re doing and go pick up this amazing collection. If I had to name number one preferred tales in the collection, I’d be massively torn between “Baby,” and “Pas De Deux,” but in the end I think I personally come down in favor of the latter. Your mileage will certainly vary, but I’m confident telling you that you will enjoy every single story in this book and you don’t want to miss a word of it. Check out the excerpt from “Pas De Deux” below and click those order links, go get yourself some Koja. Also, keep your ear to the ground for news about the aforementioned “Funhole.”
Excerpt from “Pas De Deux”
She liked them young, young men; princes. She liked them young when she could like them at all because by now, by this particular minute in time, she had had it with older men, clever men, men who always knew what to say, who smiled a certain kind of smile when she talked about passion, about the difference between hunger and love. The young ones didn’t smile, or if they did it was with a touching puzzlement because they didn’t quite see, weren’t sure, didn’t fully understand: knowing best what they did not know, that there was still so much to learn.
“Learn what?” Edward’s voice from the cage of memory, deep voice, “what’s left to learn?” Reaching for the bottle and the glass, pouring for himself. “And who’ll do the teaching? You?” That smile like an insect’s, like the blank button eyes of a doll made of metal, made from a weapon, born from a knife and see him there, pale sheets crushed careless at the foot of the bed, big canopied bed like a galleon inherited from his first wife—the sheets, too, custom-made sheets—all of it given them as a wedding present by his first wife’s mother: Adele, her name was and he liked to say it, liked to pretend—was it pretense?—that he had fucked her, too, going from mother to daughter in a night, a suite of nights, spreading the seed past four spread legs, and prim Alice could never compare, said Edward, with the grand Adele, Adele the former ballet dancer, Adele who had been everywhere, lived in Paris and Hong Kong, written a biography of Balanchine, Adele who wore nothing but black from the day she turned twenty-one, and “I don’t understand,” he would say, head back, knee bent, his short fat cock like some half-eaten sausage, “what you think you can teach me, aren’t you being just a little bit absurd?”
“We all have something to learn,” she said, and he laughed, left the room to return with a book, Balanchine & Me: Balanchine in color on the cover, a wee black-and-white of Adele on the back. “Read this,” putting the book into her hands. “Find out how much you don’t know.” Whiskey breath and settling back into bed, glass on his chest, big hairy chest like an animal’s, he liked to lie naked with the windows open, lie there and look at her, and “Are you cold?” he would say, knowing she was freezing, that her muscles were cramping. “Do you feel a draft?”
No, she could have said, or yes or fuck you or a million other responses, but in the end she had made none of them, said nothing, got out. Left him there in his canopied bed and found her own place, her own space, living above her studio: dance studio, she had been away for a long time but now she was back and soon, another month or two, she would have enough money maybe to keep the heat on all the time, keep the lights on, keep going. Keep on going: that was her word now, her world, motion at any cost. She was too old to be a dancer? had been away too long, forgotten too much, lost the fascistic grace of the body in torment, the body as a tool of motion, of the will? No. As long as she had legs, arms, a back to bend or twist, as long as she could move she could dance.
In the cold.
In the dark.
About Kathe Koja
Kathe Koja writes novels and short fiction, and creates and produces immersive fiction performances, both solo and with a rotating ensemble of artists. Her work crosses and combines genres, and her books have won awards, been translated, and optioned for film and performance. She is based in Detroit and thinks globally.