SHORTLISTED FOR THE LA TIMES BOOKS PRIZE 2015
A SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE NOTABLE BOOK OF 2014
A BOSTON GLOBE BEST FICTION OF 2014
ROXANE GAY'S TOP TEN BOOKS OF 2014
AN AMAZON BEST SHORT STORY COLLECTION OF 2014
AN iBOOK BEST OF 2014
Perfectly pitched and gorgeously penned, this astonishingly bold collection of stories explores the boundary between the wild and the civilized. Pitting human beings against the extremes of nature, Diane Cook surgically peels back the layers of civilization to lay bare our vulnerabilities and the ease with which our darker, primal urges emerge.
These exhilarating and terrifying talies are set in worlds that are distorted versions of our own, where an alpha male is pursued through city streets by murderous rivals, a marooned woman defends her house against the rising flood and hordes of desperate refugees, and a pack of not-needed boys take refuge in a murky forest and compete against one another for food. Wry, transgressive and utterly unique, Cook's wildly inventive debut collection illuminates, with surreal humour and heartbreak, humankind's struggle not only to thrive, but survive.
'Sharply written and imaginative...Cook is an accomplished writer with a darkly comic touch...As with the short fiction of Stephen King and Miranda July, many of the bizarre tales in Man V. Nature would make for excellent viewing...brilliant...echoes of Margaret Atwood'.
'These are grimly funny stories; dark but dizzyingly alive.'
'Makes for compulsive reading...these tales dizzy and trick...chilling and darkly comic'.
'A deeply original collection...deliciously unsettling...downright chilling...uncomfortably resonant.'
'Exhilarating… quirky, often edged with menace… understated dystopia… Cook's is a fresh and vivid voice; it's unsurprising the likes of Miranda July and Roxane Gay are fans'.
'Cook's stories gleefully tip a familiar-seeming world into something dark, dangerous and funny'.
‘A knockout ... every single story could make a great movie.'
‘As close to experiencing a Picasso as literature can get.'
‘Quirkiness abounds, with several fairy-tale tropes thrown in for good measure ... Some stories jump off the page ... all are oddly charming.'
‘I couldn't pry myself away from Man v. Nature ... The stories are grim, violent, and darkly funny, but never so far removed from our most human urges to seem TOTALLY implausible.'
‘Potent and unnerving ... stark spookiness in the vein of Shirley Jackson and William Golding ... [and] a lonely weirdness like that of Aimee Bender and George Saunders ... Cook writes assuredly of archetypal terror and even more insightfully of hunger-for food, friendship, love and above all, survival. A canny, refined, and reverberating debut.'
‘Hunger, despair, and perpetual awe for the collapsing natural world and the vulnerability of existence therein. Apply liberally before exposure to the elements. Contents include truth and other known allergens.'
‘This past month I discovered Diane Cook and had many moments of story-delight, really just too many to count, because Diane Cook is that good ... Cook's writing is lively and frank.'
'Seethes with heat, rejection and twisted perception ... I found myself enthralled by all of the stories in this collection. Not only are they surprising, but also fresh, funny, sad, often surreal and oddly true.'
‘Irresistible reading ... The author probes her characters' psychological depths in weird and wonderful ways ... With Man v. Nature Cook makes a bold, original debut.'
‘Lively, apocalypse-tinged tales ... Cook mines the moments that precede the losses - when the battles are truly raging - and it's in them that she finds great beauty and strangeness ... And, in the end, this collection suggests, meaning might be worth the battle.'
‘Man V. Nature could also be called Diane Cook V. The Challenges of Writing Fresh, Invigorating Fiction in Our Age. In the latter contest, Cook crushes. Here is a bold debut.'
Man v. Nature may be Diane Cook's first book, but the former "This American Life” producer's work is impressively precocious - making it our favourite short-story collection of October.'
‘Here's a good rule: If Diane Cook wrote it, read it ... Safety is tenuous, if not an illusion, in her thoughtful, unsettling, and darkly funny collection.'
‘This debut story collection takes the familiar narrative conflict and applies it to contemporary characters. The capriciousness of the natural world in Cook's stories colours them with a Romantic, almost surreal light that fans of Megan Mayhew Bergman are sure to appreciate.'
‘[Cook] puts forth idiosyncratic and twisted conceits, but delivers the narrative goods when it comes to depicting the tragic, emotional lives of her characters ... Like the best kind of fiction, the reader is left with much to think about within the broad realms of sex, death, love and friendship.'
‘Diane Cook's writing is sharp, bawdy, bold and often hilarious. Her stories are refreshingly crude and her imagination is unbounded. Like her characters, Cook does what she wants. Her world is another universe, where people are wilder.'
‘What I like most about these stories is that many of them are dispatches from the end of the world, and it turns out to be a surprisingly familiar place.'
‘Diane Cook's stories are like high-wattage bulbs strung across a sinister, dark land. Man V. Nature is equal parts dazzle and depth.'
‘Masterful ... Each darkly comic modern fable reveals our societal preoccupations - with status, sex, motherhood, belonging - for what they really are: thin veneers over our ever-present animal selves, ready to crack at the merest provocation. A book that'll grab your attention and keep you thinking.'
‘A dark pleasure ... In ‘Meteorologist Dave Santana' sex happens less often than the desperate, older woman (the meteorologist's neighbour) would like. Cook is a young woman imagining an older woman's need, and not charitably. But if Cook is anything like me, that desperate neighbour is herself. I've never really felt young.'