Review: Ventriloquisms by Jaclyn Watterson

Understanding the Abstracted: A Look into Jaclyn Watterson’s “Ventriloquisms”

“By the time he’s dead, delicacy, like high-heeled shoes, is a vector, and–no surprise–ventriloquism is no longer a form of self-expression. Stick a feather, I say” — “All of Them Are Comely”, short story by Jaclyn Watterson

Jaclyn Watterson’s collection of short stories is at once captivating and wildly confusing. Each one lasting roughly a few pages, this is a continual jump from story to story until they begin to blend and it feels like one continuous piece. Confronting issues of the household, relationships, sex, and violence, Watterson graphically draws out the scenes she portrays in a way that makes it impossible for the reader to ignore. Her depictions are artistically abstract or metaphorical, and Watterson brilliantly turns them into a new reality where the abstract becomes literal.

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The writing is simply stunning — Watterson is able to transform her stories from normalcy to complete dreamwork. Characters are viscerally described, with their flaws exaggerated and brought to the forefront. Grotesque scenes are downplayed as characters come into contact with the disturbing and have a lack of a reaction towards it.


“With wire wrapped around their throats, their arms lost strength, and their hands were no trouble, once they were severed … The pudgy feet that we tied together and threw over telephone wires and tree branches say something. They say to everyone–We have something you want” — “We Act” by Jaclyn Watterson


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Each re-read of these stories brought a new potential meaning, an underlying reality as we know it. Poignant and gripping, this witty and synonymous grouping of short fiction and horror works will give a new appreciation to the genre of fiction. Delving into this fictional scape of monsters among men, the animalistic qualities in people, and the social constructs that bind them all is much worth the read.


“Where every punishment is born unto a girl … Every punishment began as a girl” — “Pinchbelly” by Jaclyn Watterson

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Reviewed by Sabrina Easley