God, the Moon, and Other Megafauna by Kellie Wells

I first discovered Kellie Wells in 2016 when I read her colossal experimental novel, Fat Girl, Terrestrial. It the novel, you will meet “Wallis Grace Armstrong, a giant of a woman. She’s 8 feet, 11 (and-a-half) inches and 490 pounds.” In her latest work, God, the Moon, and Other Megafauna, Wells presents readers with a short story collection, though she loses none of her experimental style.

A gorgeous cover for a collection of fairy tales.

The stories are organized into five sections: Moon, God, Kansas, Fauna, and Apocalypse. You’ll not find stories here you’ve read before; in one remarkable tale, a boy who fell from the moon is delivered to a circus because he was “born a funambulist.” In another, Wells personifies Time and God, who have a bad relationship. Her personification stories tended to be my favorite, like the case of Kansas going to a party and having to interact with those mean, dreadful other states, which like to play jokes on her or worse — ignore her (Get it? Kansas is a fly-over state?).

One aspect of Wells’s writing that doesn’t always work for me cannot be held against her. We’re talking about a brilliant, inventive woman who is writing for a similar audience. Thus, her vocabulary is oftentimes over my head. I said the same thing of Alison Bechdel in her graphic memoir Fun Home, and I didn’t hold it against her, either. Here is an example of some words I looked up while reading God, the Moon, and Other Megafauna:

Pentapopemptic (divorced five times)
Monadnock (isolated hill or ridge or erosion-resistant rock…)
Amanuensis (literary or artistic assistant)
Inglenook (space on either side of large fireplace)
Vituperation (bitter and abusive language)
Pullet (young hen, less than a year old)
Confrere (colleague)

While I was able to work my way through stories, putting in the effort because Wells’s imagination is worth paying attention to, I didn’t finish any of the three stories in the final “Apocalypse” section. At first, I made a real attempt, but then I skimmed the opening sentence of each paragraph in each story to get a sense of the shape and direction of the tale. But, I couldn’t grasp what the stories were about. I left these three stories unread, despite the interesting bits I caught.

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29 comments

  1. What a striking cover! The stories sound so intriguing overall, though always gives me pause when I hear stories feel impossibly inscrutable, even when the writing is lovely. Frustrating as a reader.

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  2. This does sound so imaginative! And Jennifer is right; that cover is striking! The stories sound unusual (and I mean that as a compliment), too. I do understand what you mean about the vocabulary; I can see how that can be really frustrating. Still, it sounds like quite an interesting collection.

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  3. Such an interesting collection of the stories – the author’s imagination sounds amazing. I knew none of those words you mentioned. I just learned something new, thanks. 🙂

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  4. I love the fact that she included those words you had to look up-the divorced five times one is hilarious, the fact that there’s a word in the english language for that!

    Too bad some of the stories were DNF’s, but good for you for not forcing yourself through them…

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    • I’m not sure who designed the cover, but all the intricate details are fantastic. I do love that there is a word for divorced five times because I know someone who has been married five times…! My great-grandma got married four times. One divorce and the other three passed away before her — one after only about 3 months of marriage!

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  5. I love those words: I did know a few of them but inglenook for one strikes me as being a very British English word. Confrere is interesting as it carries an implication of brotherhood which isn’t in colleague. I don’t adore short stories but I’m glad this writer is writing this inventive work, if that makes sense.

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  6. The cover design really grabs your attention! I like the Medieval influence. I hadn’t heard of this author, but most of the stories in the book sound intriguing and the author’s vocabulary is so vivid.

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  7. I’ve become progressively lazier as a fiction reader over the years and don’t think I’d be willing to put the work in. Like you, that’s not really a criticism of the author – horses for courses. It’s just an admission that I don’t like when meanings are so obscure an intelligent reader still struggles to understand them…

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  8. I enjoy coming up against words I don’t know, sometimes I just assume a rough meaning from the context, and sometimes with Google so handy, I look them up. But authors do it on purpose too – use a thesaurus to come up with words they don’t know themselves.

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  9. I am feeling a touch smug now because I knew a couple of those words (inglenook and pullet) – though I had no idea there was a word for having been divorced five times! I find that it really takes me out of the story if I frequently come across words I have to look up – I don’t mind in non-fiction, but in fiction, it reminds me that I’m just reading a story and it lessens my enjoyment a lot.

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  10. Hm. So do you count this book as a DNF or not? How often do you DNF books? You occasionally reference these during other reviews, but I don’t have an idea of the scope of the books you read and don’t review, versus the books you just DNF.

    You might be surprised to hear that I know what pullet means! XD But seriously, I have to look up words all the time when I’m reading. This is one of the reasons I love eBooks. I can get the definition of the word so easily. Overall, this book sounds fascinating. I don’t know if I’ll pick it up, however. Experimental literature just isn’t my thing.

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    • I’m coming to learn that most experimental lit isn’t my thing, either. If I straight up don’t read enough of a book to say something about it (usually <30 pages), I grab a different book to fill in the gap in my reading challenge for the year. I mention this at the beginning of my reviews, like I did in my review yesterday of Christmas at Pemberley. However, if I read enough to review the book, I consider it "finished" in a way. Corregidora was a novel I quit recently, but I only had 30 pages left, so I reviewed it. Same thing with God, the Moon, and Other Megafauna. Because the Megafauna book was a collection of short stories, my brain doesn't see it as a DNF the same way I do with a novel.

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      • I like that you view short story collections differently than novels when it comes to DNFing. I’ve never thought about that — but I agree with your perspective. If you’ve completed reading some of the stories, those stories deserve attention. I might be stealing that perspective going forward. 😉

        How many books do you read which you don’t review? I haven’t been paying attention — but are you trying to read and review all the books you’ve identified for your challenge each month?

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        • I do try to read and review the books that I put up on my monthly “this is what I’m reading” post. Some of them are so bad right away that I abandon them and try to find a book that I can squeeze in with the time I have left. For instance, if I read 50 pages of a book and give up, I’ll replace it with a shorter book, something less than 200 pages.

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