Lungs Full of Noise
Short Stories by Tessa Mellas
2013 / 128 Pages
The short stories in Tessa Mellas’s Lungs Full of Noise range from quirky and bizarre to sad and confusing. For such a slim collection, the stories here offer a vast range of emotions, settings, perspectives, and horror. From pregnancy and abortion to beauty and body image, Mellas’s stories present an intense and peculiar image of femininity – one that can only be described as macabre, ethereal, and tortured.
The story that fascinated me the most is entitled Bibi From Jupiter, and tells the story of a young girl from Jupiter who has traveled to Earth in order to attend college. Unfortunately, Bibi’s roommate finds her presence unnerving and frustrating. Besides Bibi’s green-tinted skin and androgynous physical makeup, she also has quite a knack for seducing co-eds. Of course, Jupiterian sex isn’t quite like Earth sex. Bibi’s genitals all seem to be contained within her bellybutton, which her roommate soon finds out makes for some interesting sexual positions. And even more peculiar is the fact that Jupiterians can only give birth once, and then they die. But according to Bibi, it might be worth it, because pregnancy is supposed to be the most mind-altering state of pleasure for aliens of her kind. It’s completely weird and creative, which is why I really loved this collection at first.
But about halfway through the book, form and structure begin to dissolve and the stories take on a more abstract appearance. I’m not opposed to experimentation with form and grammar, but things got a little too abstract for my taste. Here’s a passage from one of the latter stories entitled opal one, opal two:
antoinette – gold leaf pages raining. raincloud raining fruit. dig faster, clumsy elbow. scoop harder, wrong-handed hand. the ornamented girl is saving the world. dirty girl, you better hurry. or the worms will drown in psalms. have to shovel them out. helen, hold the jar a little closer. helen, help dirty siser dig, soupspoon for a spade. two hands only holding. hardly helping. lazy girl. now too many psalms in the soil. pink worms bloat under the weight of the word.
Any clues to what that little ditty could possibly mean? I would provide you with some context if I had any. Maybe I’m just not smart enough to interpret this one, but like I said, it’s all a little too enigmatic for me. Tessa Mellas won the 2013 Iowa Short Fiction Award for this collection, and I can see why these tales would garner the attention of short story critics. Lungs Full of Noise is quite unique and memorable, but the obscurity in style and form was a bit overwhelming and distracting for my taste.