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Bliss Montage

Bliss Montage

Ling Ma

  • awardWinner, The Story Prize, United States, 2022
  • awardWinner, Fiction, National Book Critics Circle Awards, United States, 2022
  • awardShortlisted, Mark Twain American Voice in Literature Award, United States, 2023
  • What happens when fantasy tears through the screen of the everyday to wake us up? Could that waking be our end?

    In Bliss Montage, Ling Ma brings us eight wildly different tales of people making their way through the madness and reality of our collective delusions: love and loneliness, connection and possession, friendship, motherhood, the idea of home. From a woman who lives in a house with all of her ex-boyfriends, to a toxic friendship built around a drug that makes you invisible, to an ancient ritual that might heal you of anything if you bury yourself alive, these and other scenarios reveal that the outlandish and the everyday are shockingly, deceptively, heartbreakingly similar.


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    Ling Ma
    About the Author

    Ling Ma was born in Sanming, China and grew up in Utah, Nebraska and Kansas. She attended the University of Chicago and received an MFA from Cornell University. Prior to graduate school she worked as a journalist and editor. Her writing has appeared in Granta, Vice, Playboy, Chicago Reader, Ninth Letter and other publications. A chapter of ...

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    20 September 2022
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    Praise for Ling Ma
    andBliss Montage

    ‘Ling Ma is a master at subverting expectations. The stories in this collection progress in a pleasantly disorienting way, drifting through dreamlike scenarios that are at turns nightmarish, queasy, funny, or some combination of all three. Bliss Montage presents a strange and compelling intersection between stark realism and absurd fantasy. It all adds up to a uniquely satisfying reading experience.’

    ‘We know that the false and the true—like bliss and misery—are interlaced in the lifeworlds of globalized capitalism, but no one explores the affective contours and sensuous texture of that intermingling in the way Ling Ma does. In this riveting collection of stories, in which one is alternately startled, horrified, and delighted, Ma stands out once again as one of the most original writers of her generation.’

    ‘[Bliss Montage] uses elements of the fantastic but grounds them in a reality that is more recognizably our own…The ideas of home and belonging recur throughout the collection…Ma also writes about motherhood and academic life and abusive relationships. These are rich themes, and [she] explores them with the logic of dreams…Haunting and artful.’

    ‘[A] fantastical and often brilliant collection…Enchanting, full of intelligence, dry humor, and an appealing self-awareness.’

    ‘Elegantly labyrinthine stories that are very pleasurable to read.’

    ‘A lyrical, potent [book] that blends fantasy and reality to dazzling effect … Ma seamlessly blends the real and the unreal with astonishing confidence and care … Another triumph for Ma.’

    ‘A collection of short stories that subvert our deepest illusions about one’s self … Unpredictable and sharp, Ma’s writing is unlike any other.’

    ‘Dreamy stories, each with a foot in the fantastic and the other foot firmly in the appalling everyday.’

    ‘[A] rich and capacious collection, a montage which begs to be viewed over and over again.’

    ‘This delightfully strange dip back into Ma’s brain is as wonderful as you expect. It touches on what amounts to the greatest hits of human existence: friendship, love, the meaning of home and why we need each other. Read it. Just read it.’

    ‘Strange, wonderful, and uniquely poignant. Ma’s stark and pointed prose shines here, and each story deserves multiple readings, sure to supply newly discovered emotions each time.’

    ‘Surreal and jarring in the most sensational way…A fantastical collection that grows more and more captivating with each page.’

    ‘[Ma] does not disappoint.’

    ‘Ma has a gift for deliciously surreal premises…Weird and wonderful, surreal and subversive, these stories prove that Ma is well on her way to a landmark career.’

    ‘Undeniably compelling.’

    ‘Ma deftly captures the mood of what she has referred to as “compromised pleasure”…These stories tweak the everyday to allow us to question the mirages scaffolding our reality.’

    ‘Captivating…Ma harnesses the pulsating desire and power dynamics present in all relationships, from intimate friendships and haunting romantic entanglements to motherhood and the invisible yet omnipresent ties of ancestors.’

    ‘A surreal collection.’

    ‘Ideally situated to the moment.’

    ‘[A] rich and capacious collection, a montage which begs to be viewed over and over again.’

    ‘An assured follow-up [to Severance], a striking collection…Ma’s imagination operates on the same chimerical frequency as those of Helen Oyeyemi, Samanta Schweblin, Meng Jin…Ma’s stories stay with you—evidence of a gifted writer curious about the limits of theoretical possibility.’

    ‘This collection is essential—it’s like a deep and clean breath of fresh air.’

    ‘Ma’s stories effortlessly gloss the absurd over the quotidian, holding perfect equilibrium between what is realistic and what’s so bluntly, obviously bizarre as to feel real. I blasted through this book in a day and couldn’t stop…Incredibly potent.’

    ‘Uncanny and haunting…The genius of Ma’s stories is unearthed in how she stretches the boundaries of the world while zooming in on the details that matter most.’

    ‘Haunting…Ling Ma writes with such authority that we readers are simply swept along.’

    ‘Wildly inventive…The tension between the familiar and the unfathomable pulses on every page.’

    ‘A surreal and wild read thorough varying levels of reality, as well as love, loneliness, motherhood, possession and home.’

    ‘A delightfully strange, fantastical and subversive collection…For fans of George Saunders and readers who generally enjoy having their minds bent.’

    ‘No one writes quite like Ling Ma…Beautiful, heartbreaking, absurd and laugh-out-loud funny, all at once.’

    ‘The discomforts that define everyday reality are stretched and deformed until they detonate like a balloon that has been twisted too tightly…Ma’s book can be eaten in one gulp.’

    ‘The prose is so strong, and these stories are all so different, so it’s tough to say which is the one that people will be talking about (For the record: this is a good thing)…They reflect the real pains and anxieties of family, romantic, and work relationships.’

    ‘Rich with onscreen potential.’

    ‘Sometimes fantastical, sometimes grounded so thoroughly in family that the narrators feel trapped or weighed down. In all of them, the female narrator seeks a way to do more than endure.’

    ‘Eight equally far-out stories…each one its own deadpan flight of fancy, sly and strange.’

    ‘[Ling Ma’s] remarkable new collection of weirdness.’

    ‘[Ling Ma] is a master at subverting our expectations and asking us what happens when fantasy tears through the screen of the everyday…Highly recommend this collection, I loved it.’

    ‘Eight stories that pack a punch…Each tale is a wonder.’

    ‘Delightfully strange…Read it. Just read it.’

    ‘Unique and fascinating.’

    ‘Just eight stories, but they hit the page with startling and singular force…Bliss Montage is an impressive collection from a confident, intelligent and powerfully original writer.’

    ‘Each short story has its own odd hook, but Ling Ma is equally interested in how these fabulist events affect the more mundane ways characters relate to one another and themselves. Throughout all they encounter, the characters still course with the structures that shape them—gender, race, power, family…Ma again shows her ability to write grounded character studies in worlds almost as bizarre as our own.’

    ‘I loved this collection…Through the surreality you’re getting closer to reality…I was blown away, I think [Ling Ma] is brilliant.’

    ‘In Bliss Montage, Ma proves herself as an esteemed voice of the 21st century…It is an exemplary work of literature, composed with talent and purpose. The experience of reading Ma’s latest collection can best be described by a word taken straight from its title: bliss.’

    Bliss Montage had me on the first page. I’ll always be pulled in by a strong protagonist that touches on life’s complexities with bluntness and sharp humour, and that’s who Ling Ma artfully conjures up back-to-back as one story ends and another starts to take off.’

    ‘There is plenty of strange, subversive pleasure…to be found in these stories, including consumerist satire, an invisibility drug binge, and a guide to yeti sex—yes, you read that right.’

    ‘This collection by acclaimed writer Ling Ma has remarkable momentum, each story deliciously crashing into the next, driven forward by the voices of women seeking surrender, validation, and destruction, punctuated by bright notes of humour.’

    ‘Ling Ma’s style of writing is so unique…Master storytelling…Definitely in the ‘must-read pile!’

    ‘Surreal, disturbing and subversive, these stories from a brilliantly original writer tackle everything from the immigrant experience to redemption through to being buried alive.’

    Bliss Montage slips into the space that emerges when our grasp of practical reality eases and our sense for psychedelic possibilities expands…By draping her stories in the language and atmosphere of the surreal, Ma challenges us to try our hand at the lost art of interpretation.’

    ‘What sets Ma’s work apart from much contemporary fiction is that the contemporary world is not simply around her characters, it’s part of them and their lives, intrinsic to their thought patterns—which is one of the reasons her writing feels so relevant and authentic.’

    ‘To read Ma’s work is to step into her meticulously crafted worlds where fantasy and reality bleed into one another…Like the bliss montage that this story collection is named after, Ma’s stories are ones I want to revisit again and again.’

    ‘Eight reality-bending tales remove us just far enough from the world we recognise into one where the ordinary and extraordinary become eerily indistinguishable.’

    ‘The escapist visions float along each page with meaningful agency and haunting recognition…Ma’s ability to subvert your expectations of how a story may unfold is genius and every character plays their role with a dash of emotional dampening…A round of applause to this novel.’

    ‘A fever dream where the real and surreal have merged into one…Ma takes familiar situations and pushes them to their extremes.’

    ‘By stretching the comprehensibility of language, playing with surrealist imagery, and experimenting with formal conceits, Ma’s collection explores how fiction might respond to pressing questions of contemporary politics…When I finished Bliss Montage, I felt disorientated, adrift in a sea of indeterminacy—which is exactly why I wanted to turn back to the first page and read the collection all over again.’

    ‘Ling Ma really can do it all! Funny, original, crushing, tense…’

    Other editions ofBliss Montage
    • Bliss Montage
      ISBN: 9781922459237
      20 September 2022
      Buy ebook
    Other Titles byLing Ma