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.

  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.

  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. 🙂

  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…

    • The alternative word for “colleague” is interesting. Why choose confrere instead? I don’t want to ever leave a comment like “choose vocab that only I know!!” because I’m well aware that lots of people wonder what the heck I’m talking about, too. It’s all subjective. Thus, the “warning” about the vocab and not the condemnation of the whole collection.

    • 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!

  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.

  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.

  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…

  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.

  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.

  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.

    • 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.

      • 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?

        • 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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