Lungs Full of Noise

Lungs Full of Noise

This prize-winning debut of twelve stories explores a femininity that is magical, raw, and grotesque. Aghast at the failings of their bodies, this cast of misfit women and girls sets out to remedy the misdirection of their lives in bold and reckless ways.Figure skaters screw skate blades into the bones of their feet to master elusive jumps. A divorcee steals the severed...

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Title:Lungs Full of Noise
Author:Tessa Mellas
Rating:
Edition Language:English

Lungs Full of Noise Reviews

  • Monika

    Originally posted on my blog,

    :

    Lungs Full of Noise begins with "Mariposa Girls," a short story about figure skaters who go to lengths more and more bizarre in order to be the absolute best. I was instantly reminded of the quirky, outlandish fables in Aimee Bender's The Color Master, so my first reaction was one of pure glee. That feeling never waned.

    Although I was reminded of the thrill I get from reading Aimee Bender, Tessa Mellas has a unique and distinct voice

    Originally posted on my blog,

    :

    Lungs Full of Noise begins with "Mariposa Girls," a short story about figure skaters who go to lengths more and more bizarre in order to be the absolute best. I was instantly reminded of the quirky, outlandish fables in Aimee Bender's The Color Master, so my first reaction was one of pure glee. That feeling never waned.

    Although I was reminded of the thrill I get from reading Aimee Bender, Tessa Mellas has a unique and distinct voice that is her own. The twelve stories in this collection are diverse, incredibly creative and most peculiar, sometimes even Kafkaesque. "opal one, opal two" was unlike anything I've ever read. "Bibi from Jupiter" was probably my favorite, about a college student whose roommate is an alien. From Jupiter. The planet, not Florida. "You'd think she at least would have tried to fit in. I think she liked being different" may have been prompted by a green alien, but it reminds readers of attitudes that are all too familiar.

    Tessa Mellas won the 2013 Iowa Short Fiction Award with Lungs Full of Noise; she's certainly one to keep an eye on. I was completely enthralled by these stories, and can't wait to read more from her!

  • Brenda

    Recently, while researching magical realism for a workshop proposal, I discovered a blog post by Rae Bryant at

    , in which Bryant responded to the disdain for fabulist prose that is held by some participants in creative writing workshops. “For staunch realism and prose traditionalists," Bryant wrote,"magic realism might as well be poetry.” That statement struck me as funny as well as sad since I don’t perceive poetry to be a lesser art form. However, this blog post did

    Recently, while researching magical realism for a workshop proposal, I discovered a blog post by Rae Bryant at

    , in which Bryant responded to the disdain for fabulist prose that is held by some participants in creative writing workshops. “For staunch realism and prose traditionalists," Bryant wrote,"magic realism might as well be poetry.” That statement struck me as funny as well as sad since I don’t perceive poetry to be a lesser art form. However, this blog post did lead me to reflect on the attractions that magical realism and lyricism both hold for me. Some language is truly inebriating.

    Indeed, a reader could get drunk off words while reading Tessa Mellas’ first collection of short stories,

    , soon to be released by the University of Iowa Press.

    Although I was able to immerse myself in the voices of each story in Mellas' collection, including those that were more stylistically experimental such as “Landscapes in White,” “So Much Rain,” and “opal one, opal two,” I was most exhilarated by selections that startled me with their grotesque originality.

    In “Mariposa Girls,” for example, the dedicated female ice skaters shave their body hair, eschew clothing, and screw blades directly into their bare feet. The damage caused by such devotion to sport/art may seem fantastically extreme, but readers can’t help but recognize the similarity between these featherless ice swans and young, female Olympians or ballerinas, who stunt their sexual development by eating little more than pea pods while engaging in intensive training.

    The protagonist of the second story in Mellas' volume, “Bibi from Jupiter,” is my favorite alien grotesque since Michel Faber’s

    . Bibi is not as dangerous as Faber’s heroine, although human males are unable to resist the allure of her exotic nymphomania, despite her anatomical differences from human females. Instead of a vagina, Bibi has a nickel-sized funnel where a belly button would exist on a human being. When Bibi is invited to celebrate Thanksgiving at her roommate's home on earth, she is stricken because, she says, the “turkey reminds [her] of [her] mother” (13). This story manages to be amusing as well as harrowing.

    Another one of my favorites,“Beanstalk,” reminded me of Jan Svankmajer’s film

    ,which is based on an Eastern European fairy tale in which a barren woman mothers a tree stump that grows into a child with voracious appetite. The green baby in Mellas’ story also appears to be associated with fairy tale as his mother names him Jack. This newborn seems to be cast as a kind of fertility spirit with tendrils for hair,which grows faster than Rapunzel’s. Jack's growth rate may also remind some readers of the carnivorous plant, Seymour, in

    , only Jack's appetite isn't quite so frightening. Still, this infant does not need the Miracle Grow pellets that a nurse gives to his mother when they are released from hospital.

    I am grateful to Netgalley for providing the pre-publication copy—and I hope that I’ll be able to introduce

    to future students in a class that explores varied incarnations of Magical Realism.

  • Joseph Spuckler

    by Tessa Mellas is a collection of twelve short stories. Mellas grew up in Northern New York and earned her BA from St Lawrence University. She earned her MFA from Bowling Green State University and her PhD from the University of Cincinnati. In 2013 She was awarded the Iowa Short Fiction Award. She currently lives in Columbus, Ohio and enjoys a vegan lifestyle.

    Since I started reviewing books, I have had some hurdles to clear. Many publishers seem to want to box reviewers

    by Tessa Mellas is a collection of twelve short stories. Mellas grew up in Northern New York and earned her BA from St Lawrence University. She earned her MFA from Bowling Green State University and her PhD from the University of Cincinnati. In 2013 She was awarded the Iowa Short Fiction Award. She currently lives in Columbus, Ohio and enjoys a vegan lifestyle.

    Since I started reviewing books, I have had some hurdles to clear. Many publishers seem to want to box reviewers into little boxes. I imagine there is a note next to my name, saying this guy is good with World War I, Vietnam, and Poetry... Reject all other requests. I requested a Virginia Woolf biography from another publisher and was rejected because it was supposedly from the feminist perspective and well I am a guy. Luckily, the very nice people at University of Iowa Press gave me auto-approval for their publications.

    What attracted me to

    was, to be honest, the weirdness. A girl with a hermaphrodite roommate from Jupiter (the planet, not the city) with greenish skin. The roommate, although very different, is taken no differently than someone from Nepal. There is no science fiction sense to the story, it's just accepted. In another story, a woman has a child with plant tendrils and flowers growing from his head. Again, people think it's a little odd, but nothing too far fetched. There is a story about girls being sent to a camp to learn to be quiet, and another story of the sky turning white. These are stories where very odd things happen and people simply accept them as normal.

    There is, however, a catch with all these stories above the oddness taken for normal. There is an underlying message to each story. Mellas writes some extreme stories where the reader will immediately know the story is fiction, because it is fairly outrageous. What the careful reader will notice is there is something equally outrageous in our own society, that we as members totally ignore. Sometimes the message is very blunt and (maybe) crude as in “Dye Job”, and other times it is a bit more hidden. Sometimes it is very plain.

    The opening story “Mariposa Club” girls forgo using ice skates and screw the blades directly to their feet. They find that this improvement allows the completion for more advanced skating techniques. Furthermore, they shaved off all their body hair and performed naked. They eventually needed to paint tights on their body to match the permanent frostbite on their bodies. The girls who did not want to make the sacrifice moved to other rinks or took up other or less demanding activities like ballet. The Mariposa Girls rise to fame until there is an accident and injury and suddenly the injured girl is just bald, naked, and unknown. The message is clear enough to me, and pretty shocking, yet, it happens everyday.

    I found

    to be a book with a powerful message. It has been the most influential of the twenty books I have read this year and in the top three of the two hundred books I read last year. I picked this book up looking for some bizarre short stories and found much, much more than that. I think, this year, I will be hard pressed to find a book to beat this one. Really an amazing book.

  • Melissa Stacy

    I greatly enjoyed this collection of short stories, from the obsessed figure skaters in "Mariposa Girls" to the alien roommate in "Bibi from Jupiter" to sad Mary Lou clinging to her dead ex-husband's arm in "So Many Wings," which was the last story in the book and my favorite. The story "opal one, opal two" was so completely unique and different that I just had to marvel at its novelty, written like poetry with so many gorgeous lines like this one, "a daughter made from velvet and glass and

    I greatly enjoyed this collection of short stories, from the obsessed figure skaters in "Mariposa Girls" to the alien roommate in "Bibi from Jupiter" to sad Mary Lou clinging to her dead ex-husband's arm in "So Many Wings," which was the last story in the book and my favorite. The story "opal one, opal two" was so completely unique and different that I just had to marvel at its novelty, written like poetry with so many gorgeous lines like this one, "a daughter made from velvet and glass and guilt." So many beautiful sentences in this collection! These stories are short, dark, and very much alive, told with the clear-eyed, fearless view of a writer with startling observations to share. This is an excellent, award-winning collection of short stories, and I look forward to reading the next book by Tessa Mellas.

  • Daniel

    This review originally published in

    . Rated 4.75 of 5

    We know we shouldn'tjudge a book by a cover, but you can look at the cover of a book to get a general idea of what you might find inside, and

    here is a great example. Looking at the cover as pictured above you might get the impression that the contents within will be a little bit different and highly imaginative, and perhaps a touch frightening. And you would be right!

    Tessa Mellas' collection

    This review originally published in

    . Rated 4.75 of 5

    We know we shouldn't judge a book by a cover, but you can look at the cover of a book to get a general idea of what you might find inside, and

    here is a great example.  Looking at the cover as pictured above you might get the impression that the contents within will be a little bit different and highly imaginative, and perhaps a touch frightening.  And you would be right!

    Tessa Mellas' collection

    is everything I like in a collection of short stories.  While you can't really pigeon-hole any of these stories (some might try calling these stories speculative fiction ala Harlan Ellison or Thomas Disch) there is something unexpected at every turn.  We start out with "Mariposa Girls" which seem like the perfect beginning.  The realism of the story sets a mood reminiscent of Margaret Atwood or even Anne Tyler but the story ... no the people

    the story ... slowly descend in to a state obsession and competitive fortitude that they alter their bodies, beyond repair, to give them a competitive edge.  It's eerie.  It's a bit revolting.  And it's all too possible.

    "Bibi From Jupiter" steps a little further into the science fiction realm, as Bibi is indeed from the planet Jupiter, now rooming in school with our narrator.  But what Mellas does as a writer, a very talented writer, is give us a sideways glance at our own society through these stories.  "Bibi From Jupiter" isn't so much about Bibi from Jupiter as it is about how we react (poorly) toward something that is at first 'different' and then find a way to take advantage of that difference.

    All the stories herein take realism and skew it slightly, just enough to make us sit up and take notice.  A child with flowers growing from his head; girls who over-indulge in specific fruit-eating in order to develop a color tint to their skin in order to get prop dates; the sky becomes white and residents assume it's an anomaly, waiting for it to become blue again.

    In addition to telling strange stories, Tesse Mellas tells a story well.  Her prose is very poetic:

    This is a sample of her lyrical prose.

    This is easily some of the best science fiction I've read in a very long time.  Perhaps Mellas wouldn't appreciate her work being labelled "science fiction" but then neither does Harlan Ellison or Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., and yet the three of them (Ellison, Vonnegut, Mellas) write some of the most powerful prose out there, which happens to have a science fiction bent to it.

    This collection includes:

    "Mariposa Girls"

    "Bibi From Jupiter"

    "Blue Sky White"

    "The White Wings of Moths"

    "Quiet Camp"

    "Beanstalk"

    "Landscapes in White"

    "So Much Rain"

    "Six Sisters"

    "Dye Job"

    "opal one, opal two"

    "So Many Wings"

    It is highly recommended.

    Looking for a good book?  If you like short stories with some bite and that will take you beyond the edge of reality, then this collection is a must for you.  Keep an eye out for the name, Tessa Mellas, because her work is worth watching for.

  • Valentina

    This is another fabulous short story collection that was difficult to put down.

    For anyone who loves the macabre, like I do, the book’s cover alone will make you pick it up and read the blurb. Let me tell you, this was one crazy ride. I think my favorite story, though, was the very first one, in which figure skaters nail their skates to their feet in an attempt at being something else, no longer women, but “Mariposa Girls”, or butterfly girls. It’s a visceral story that makes the reader feel a

    This is another fabulous short story collection that was difficult to put down.

    For anyone who loves the macabre, like I do, the book’s cover alone will make you pick it up and read the blurb. Let me tell you, this was one crazy ride. I think my favorite story, though, was the very first one, in which figure skaters nail their skates to their feet in an attempt at being something else, no longer women, but “Mariposa Girls”, or butterfly girls. It’s a visceral story that makes the reader feel a bit ill as she reads. Definitely one of the more nuanced stories in the collection.

    The writing is beautifully dark. It’s the kind of book that should be read at night, surrounded by silence, so that you can feel the isolation that some of these characters feel. So that the world feels just as stark as the stories.

    This is one I’d definitely recommend to all lovers of literary fiction and to those who have a bit of a dark side in their reading habits.

  • Jason

    NETGALLEY GIVE AWAY!!

    First, what a freaking amazing cover!

    I can't decide if I would associate these gems with Salvador Dalí or Degas. They demonstrate a writer skilled in the style of surrealism, but they capture the human sorrows in shades of obscure moments that take time to comprehend, but eventually raise the most human of emotions; sadness.

    Each have elements of the ghastly, the dark and the whimsical. The stories are dreamlike in a distant elusive way. You can clearly identify with the

    NETGALLEY GIVE AWAY!!

    First, what a freaking amazing cover!

    I can't decide if I would associate these gems with Salvador Dalí or Degas. They demonstrate a writer skilled in the style of surrealism, but they capture the human sorrows in shades of obscure moments that take time to comprehend, but eventually raise the most human of emotions; sadness.

    Each have elements of the ghastly, the dark and the whimsical. The stories are dreamlike in a distant elusive way. You can clearly identify with the larger themes of lost and sorrow, but it takes a careful mind and patience to notice the depth of each; the shrouded complexities that lay hidden. In fact the little delicate whispers hidden under a ridged exterior hit you harder than the overall subject matter. Pay close attention.

    subject matter is sweeping, but anchored in a common over-arching theme.

    A story about divorce that was crowded with the vulgarity of defense mechanisms that one only reserves for the most life shattering crises, is shattered and pierced to reveal the remanence of love. Another about the disappointments that lie beneath eager attempt to conform, and the outcome you surely perceived would happen, but pushed from your mind.

    Six Sisters; I read you first in bed. I pushed the covers close to my chin and cringed. You felt real. I could reach out and touch your meaning. You ached and I ached. I read you again over coffee. My heart raced along with your deeply shocking self-awareness. I read you a final time now, even when I finished the book. I ate New York Super Fudge Crunch. Comfort food didn't help. I tossed back the feeling to throwing up. I clutched my fork (ran out of spoons; I am lazy this Thursday, don't judge.). I have never, in my entire life read something that made me feel so real, so honestly exposed to the world. The panic of motherhood that is most likely universal, but feeling so unique to each person, slammed against my ribcage and tunneled into my bone marrow. Have you seen Whoopi Goldberg perform Surfer Girl

    ? This must have been the feeling Picasso felt when in the midst of his 'Blue Period' . Maybe you can, but I can not vocalize the white bareness I felt when reading Six Sisters.

    "Beanstock" breathed the warmth of love from its lines and paragraphs, rejected the of notion of standardized beauty—there is something bigger here, but I can't isolate it—, and cuddled against me like a down comforter. There is an air of letting go; of being one with change and growing with life, but it's small, and perhaps representing my own distortions. I don't care if I am mistaken, because I really needed a shallow hole to comfort myself against the full on assault of emotions that permeate my skin.

    "Quiet Camp" is another one that I surely misinterpreted. I felt that it was about conforming to the standards of a male dominant world. Of sheltering one's own feelings and fervor for life, and attaching to a system of dulled conventionality.

    The other works in Lungs Full of Noise" illustrate an author wildly deft at her craft, but "Beanstock" and "Quiet Camp" really explode with a loud roar. The ability to write such complex short stories, and present them in a manner that that engaged a reader at an individual level is remarkable.

    The story "So Much Rain" took me off guard. It most likely deserves a mind that can relate to it; hold it tight in bare hands. I am not this person, and as a result I felt lost within its words. I quickly read this piece, and felt afterwards that it was more an example of teasing out a shapeless unrefined style. I equated it more to an experiment, rather than having a focus on meaning making and the exploration of human experiences as was represented in the rest of the book. It contrasted too greatly against the backdrop of the brisk acidity, texture, depth and courage of the other pieces. It felt immature, priding itself on its originality, rather than its substance. Its notes remained flat, and unbalanced.

    Landscapes in White was a pretty piece. It demonstrated a well developed writer, but the style wasn't crisp and little complexity was noted. It echoed 'Queer' in style, but I don't think this was intentional. I think the author got caught up in the tendrils of lusting for variation, rather than conforming, or rather aligning with the drama—both overt and subtle—of her other works. It was lukewarm and lighter than the rest, with stronger, more forced prose. The light notes of the other works birthed a unique contrast compared to 'Landscapes in White'. This piece illustrated the way the other stories finished strong and powerful without using thicker, more dramatic language.

    there are others like 'So Much Rain' and "Landscapes in White", but I feel strongly to restrain the urge to explore them. My experience in reviewing short stories is to examine them side by side; to tease them out and apply my subjective understanding. This collection is for the casual sipper; those able to savor. It would be a mistake for me to trespass on that experience.

  • Diane S ☔

    These are some of the strangest short stories I have ever read and some of the best. Women in desperation doing outlandish and sometimes dangerous things to be better at their craft or to fit in with society's expectations. It is amazing how quickly the strange becomes normal and is just excepted and many times followed.

    Wonderfully different and stories I will not soon forget.

  • Aj Sterkel

    I’m pretty sure this book has one of the greatest covers ever. It’s so perfectly weird. Whoever designed it is brilliant and needs to design more books.

    won the Iowa Short Fiction Award in 2013. I loved one of the other collections that won the Iowa Award, so I decided to give this one a try. Judging by the synopsis, the stories sounded like my kind of bizarre. Now that I’ve read the book, I can confirm that it definitely is bizarre.

    Many of these stories focus on characters

    I’m pretty sure this book has one of the greatest covers ever. It’s so perfectly weird. Whoever designed it is brilliant and needs to design more books.

    won the Iowa Short Fiction Award in 2013. I loved one of the other collections that won the Iowa Award, so I decided to give this one a try. Judging by the synopsis, the stories sounded like my kind of bizarre. Now that I’ve read the book, I can confirm that it definitely is bizarre.

    Many of these stories focus on characters who are trying to do what society expects from them. Competitive figure skaters make painful alterations to their bodies so they can win competitions. Little girls go to quiet camp and learn to be mute because children should be seen and not heard. Freshman girls dye their skin peacock colors in the hope that senior boys will invite them to prom. This collection makes readers question why people do the things they do. The stories take society’s norms and twist them into grotesque extremes.

    A lot of us have had moments where we think,

    This book is made up of those moments.

    Like most collections,

    I lose patience with stories that are all pretty words and no action. Once a piece of writing gets rambley, I’m done.

    Still,

    These are my favorites:

  • Maciek

    A bit of a disappointment - the story about the female alien,

    , who comes down to earth to study at an American university was great; even though the premise was truly absurd (an actual alien from Jupiter comes down to study at an American university like it's a normal thing, and gets roomed with the narrator who tries to make sense of the school and her - it's fun, quirky just enough and most importantly works - it begins and ends like a story should, and leaves an imprint on

    A bit of a disappointment - the story about the female alien,

    , who comes down to earth to study at an American university was great; even though the premise was truly absurd (an actual alien from Jupiter comes down to study at an American university like it's a normal thing, and gets roomed with the narrator who tries to make sense of the school and her - it's fun, quirky just enough and most importantly works - it begins and ends like a story should, and leaves an imprint on memory which might even stay there.

    Sadly, the rest of the stories don't do that - they're like a crazy dream you had that one night but completely forgot after two days. They're pieces of odd ideas which are odd just for the sake of being odd, and become increasingly more frustrating in their randomness, unexplainable element and lack of cohesiveness...and the non-endings which plague this sort of short-story. It's like they were abandoned half-way through, when the author decided to ditch the idea and move onto something else - I have trouble remembering ideas contained in these stories, not to mention not knowing what they were supposed to be

    . Outlandish ideas and images don't automatically turn into good stories - something which I think is often forgotten these days.

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