About the Book
Amid heightened restrictions about what women can and cannot do with their bodies, Lynn Schmeidler’s debut short story collection, Half-Lives, is a humane, absurd, and timely collection of narratives centering on women’s bodies and psyches. Playful and experimental, these sixteen stories explore girlhood, sexuality, motherhood, identity, and aging in a world where structures of societal norms, narrative, gender, and sometimes even physics do not apply. The protagonists grapple with the roles they choose and with those that are thrust upon them as they navigate their ever-evolving emotional lives. A woman lists her vagina on Airbnb, Sleeping Beauty is a yoga teacher who lies in state on the dais of her mother’s studio, and a museum intern writes a confession of her affair in the form of a hijacked museum audio guide.
Praise for Half-Lives
Lynn Schmeidler’s “InventEd” won the 2023 BOMB Fiction Prize.
Among a great number of extraordinary submissions to this contest, Lynn Schmeidler’s “InventEd” was the one I found myself circling back to again and again to reexperience its unusual effects until I felt I couldn’t deny the purchase the story had found on my attention, which was almost embarrassing. The story balances an insouciant warmth and humor against a vertiginous glimpse into the mysteries of solipsism, longing, and the risk of dissolving the self in intersubjective desire. Plus, it’s goofy.
—Jonathan Lethem, 2023 BOMB Fiction Contest Judge
Lynn Schmeidler’s Half-Lives is an extraordinary debut, an endlessly smart, endlessly cool, endlessly moving collection full of evocative desire and wonder. Schmeidler has a gift for hooky, high-concept openings, plus the chops to deliver on those promises in ways you might not see coming. I’ve rarely been so consistently surprised by a short story writer; I can’t wait to reread these stories and be amazed all over again.
—Matt Bell, author of Appleseed
Reading Half-Lives is as thrilling and strange as finding Franz Kafka in a patch picking blueberries for Donald Barthelme and Shirley Jackson. I laughed out loud one thousand times. I don’t know how she did it, but Schmeidler has taken the world off its hinges and hung it back on brilliantly askew. These slanted stories swing wildly, and the breeze their swinging makes is a relief we now desperately need.
—Sabrina Orah Mark, author of Happily
Half-Lives is not a half depiction of anything, but rather a full and delightfully teeming portrait of women’s lives as they grow up and grow older. Schmeidler’s got a wonderful sense of rhythm—here time races by, here it slows down to a glorious drip—and her stories contain gymnastic feats—back handsprings of language and structural contortions. I admired and enjoyed this playful and profound collection.
—Emily Nemens, author of The Cactus League