farewell navigator: stories (open city, 2008)
"Leni Zumas’s writing is fearless and swift, sassy and sensational."
"Attention unrequited lovers, sisters of suicidal brothers, children of the legally blind: you are not alone. Leni Zumas understands your quiet agony and describes it with such wry, unflinching familiarity that even the gory details ring true. If darkness has ever been your friend, your story is in here."
"I have never read stories like Leni Zumas’s before and I can’t get them out of my head. Her language is real sorcery—it dismantles the world you think you know and takes you to strange, fecund territories of the imagination. Leni creates worlds so vivid and fever-bright that you forget you’re reading words on a page and begin to see real plums, scars, black stars... Her characters are girls & boys in bad trouble, who feel as close to you and as far from you as the black sheep in your own family."
"Leni Zumas is a wonder, an alchemist, a witch. She brews a wild elixir in these stories, which take you where you never thought to go. Here are mothers infatuated with astronauts and dragons; here is a girl suckling elvers and owlets. Here is the body unspooling and nibbled at, the body undone and made fast again with the strength of the wish to be loved. Something’s timely in these stories and hip, and yet they let us fall out of time. Fall into sorrow and be lifted again. What a blessing—to succumb to Zumas’s power, to these gorgeous, beguiling songs."
"It’s a rare writer who can bring us closer to people we might cross the street to avoid."
"Zumas gives socially awkward, mysteriously gifted and self-destructive outcasts spellbinding, unflinching voice ... It’s a powerful, irresistible collection."
"Almost no one does the right thing—or, at least, the expected thing—in these stories. You may find them funny (there’s just enough humor to keep them upbeat of Carson McCullers), but there’s also a very good chance they will unzip you, unsettle you. … Synapses snap, crackle and pop while you’re reading this strange collection."
—Los Angeles Times
"Zumas’s penchant for rhythmic language and experimentation is paralleled (and possibly influenced) by her work as a drummer. Her Brooklyn-based band, S-S-S-Spectres, plays what she calls “scratchy yelpy semi-dancey post-punk,” and sings songs about “voodoo, the supernatural and the nautical.” Her literary subject matter often follows suit, focusing on the culture of rebellious musicians, rock clubs and “trapped people.” Zumas’s stories deal with suicide and bleeding rectums, and take place in rehab centers and towns that don’t exist on maps—microcosms of the great community of solitude. Like powerful music, the phenomenon of Zumas’s fiction happens when the rhythms are perfectly in time with the pitch of loneliness. She pounds away at her words until they make a melancholy sound."
"Once you start staring into the verbal abyss that is FAREWELL NAVIGATOR … you’ll be absorbed by a shape-shifting combination of 'gory details' and uplifting turning points, by gothic fairytale scenarios blended with the surreal richness of the seemingly mundane. And luckily, you’ll occasionally discover some hope and moments of triumphant insights."
" 'A salt-worthy story isn’t about something—it is that something itself,' says Horace, the 'Everything Hater' of one of the ten short stories included in FAREWELL NAVIGATOR by Leni Zumas. None of the stories is less than excellent. A few, like “How He Was a Wicked Son,” are memorable. Leni Zumas is not just a good storyteller. She speaks with her own language, that’s never plain, but always dry and dense, with a broken rhythm, a tension that never explodes and gives to the phrases a strange, haunting beauty. People in these stories are unhappy, and unhappiness has a thousand shades. There is something of Flannery O’Connor’s gothic in FAREWELL NAVIGATOR, but Zumas has a voice that doesn’t sound like anything else, a prose that is both lyrical and brutally humorous. The characters are not just their thoughts, they are sculpted by language, which is their own words and also the dialog of the world they live in. Everybody is trapped in a sort of lullaby, and the only way to go is to sing along. FAREWELL NAVIGATOR is a dark jewel."
—The Greenpoint Gazette