#253: The Fantasy of Real Life
In 2018, the writer Ling Ma published Severance, which promptly won several literary prizes but only hit the big time in 2020. The novel follows Candace Chen, who continues to go to her unfulfilling job in the middle of a worldwide pandemic that slowly fills the world with slack-jawed zombies. You can guess why it was popular. This fall, Ma is back with a new collection of stories, Bliss Montage, which imagines a number of other surreal scenarios, such as a drug that makes you invisible, a dream job that just might open a literal door into a dream world, and a manual on Yeti lovemaking. One of Ma’s characters lives in an L.A. mansion with her 100 ex-boyfriends; another visits her husband’s homeland, where people bury themselves alive in an annual festival in hopes of curing their physical or psychic ills. Bliss Montage’s eight stories are, above all, about the fictions we tell ourselves to survive the delusions of modern life.
Go beyond the episode:
- Ling Ma’s Bliss Montage
- Read “Peking Duck” in The New Yorker and more about Ma’s time at Playboy
- If you missed the pandemic boat: read Severance (if you’re an audiobook fan, Nancy Wu’s droll audiobook narration is perfect) and check out the Post45 discussion circle about the novel
- Jeanine Basinger’s original formulation of the “bliss montage” in films, from her book A Woman’s View
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