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Portable Curiosities

2017 - Shortlisted


Judges’ comments

Satire is too small a description for this dazzling collection of twelve short stories. Certainly there are odd moments. There are funny moments. But Koh is determined not to merely rest at the uncanny. While never threatening to tip into agitprop, Portable Curiosities is an unapologetically political collection. This is a book that wants to pick at the wrapping of those weird moments, to better find the source of our uncomfortable laughter.

Koh lays down her trail of fireworks cannily, as each curiosity begins in a world like ours before sparking off into stranger territory. A woman’s ‘fantastic breasts’ command attention and even movie stardom on their own in a pointed satire about objectification. A child’s belly button blinks to become a ghost-seeing eye as an oblique consideration of a mixed heritage. A ‘yellow’ man steps down from the cinema screen for a full-bodied experience of racism. The curiosities here are less random than those found at any vintage shop – they are burnished, superbly witty and often astonishing.