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Kim Fu Conjures Metaphorical Monsters

In her recent short story collection, the Seattle author employs surrealism to get closer to the truth.

By Sophie Grossman April 29, 2022 Published in the Summer 2022 issue of Seattle Met

Kim Fu's debut novel, For Today I Am a Boy, was a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award. Lesser Known Monsters of the 21st Century is her first short story collection.

Lesser Known Monsters of the 21st Century (2022)

“It’s taken from a story about a woman who’s escaping an abusive partner. And she ends up renting a house, and the house is infested with bugs…. She’s sort of alone in this nightmare that no one else believes…. In all the stories in the collection, I’m trying to make more concrete and manifest certain emotions and experiences that are more nebulous by giving them a shape, or a form, as a monster. In this case, it’s the bugs.” —Kim Fu

An excerpt from “June Bugs”

It was bearable in the daytime, busy as she was with work and chores, the beetles mostly hidden, spread out across the house. The worst was the time between dusk—which fell earlier and earlier—and when Martha went to sleep, when they flocked to whatever room she was in, the sole break in the darkness, the light of their world. They gathered in her lit bedroom as she shook her pajamas out, usually dislodging a beetle or two, as she changed and got into bed, and then dispersed in their slow, aimless way once she turned out the light.

The nights grew colder. She kept the radiators off as much as possible, hoping the beetles, as promised, would finally freeze. One night, she was awakened by a beetle crossing her face. She lurched up, swatting it off, and discovered another beetle in her hair. She turned on the light. She combed through the bedding and found two more. Just as the bugs had been drawn into the enclosed porch, and then into the house, moving mindlessly toward warmth, they would now be drawn to her. They would confuse the lump of her under the heaped blankets for the sun-warmed topsoil they sought, the break in the universe where they could emerge into summertime. 

Reprinted with the permission of Kim Fu and Tin House.

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