Cynthia Cannell Literary Agency
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Mary South

 

Mary South is a graduate of Northwestern University and the MFA program in fiction at Columbia University where she was a Henfield Scholar. She has studied with Ben Marcus, Sam Lipsyte, and Gordon Lish, and worked alongside Diane Williams for many years as an editor at the literary journal NOON. Her writing has appeared in The Collagist, Conjunctions, Electric Literature, The New Yorker’s “Book Bench,” NOON, and Words Without Borders.

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YOU WILL NEVER BE FORGOTTEN

While Mary South's stories feature the cutting-edge technology of our present and near future, what makes this collection so exceptional is the deft hand with which she can peel back the sheen of novelty to get to the core of these characters' triumphs and struggles. With sharp insight and wit, South lays bare the timeless truths of love, loss and loneliness at the heart of these stories.

Sara Nović, author of Girl at War

In her debut collection, Mary South’s characters use technology to escape their uncontrollable feelings of grief or rage or despair, only to reveal their most flawed and human selves. These 10 stories feature an impressive range of voices, alternatingly provocative, wistful, and calculatingly disaffected in prose that is fiercely intelligent and outlandishly funny.

Old men in a nursing home dial phone-sex hotlines to stave off their debilitating loneliness in “The Age of Love.” In “Architecture for Monsters,” (previously published in Conjunctions), an architect draws dubious ethical inspiration from her daughter’s birth defect for the buildings she designs. And in the title story, a content moderator for Google is obsessed with stalking her rapist’s online activity, so much so that she starts stalking him in real life.

South explores how the Internet both collapses our relationships from within but also provides opportunities for connection. Savagely critical of the increasingly fraught cultural climates we inhabit, these stories also offer hope in the minute interactions and moments of tenderness between characters. Akin to the formally inventive as well as darkly absurdist style of Carmen Maria Machado or Alissa Nutting, South’s stories reveal both our grotesque selfishness and our intense need for love and acceptance; our psychic pain that shuts us off from each other but also allows us to discover our deepest reaches of empathy.

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Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2021

Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2021

 

UNTITLED NOVEL

Mary South’s debut novel documents a world in which women are turning into common household objects, such as vacuums, microwave ovens, and flatscreen televisions. The novel’s protagonist observes this process of transformation into the mundane while she works as a nurse at a hospice for women of the 1%, where only the rich and the famous can receive adequate care while enduring such a painful and unusual change.

Through her work with the transforming and transformed, the nurse, whose own mother is turning into a television, bears witness and somehow also learns to more fully inhabit her own life. Conceived as Kazuo Ishiguro’s NEVER LET ME GO meets J. G. Ballard’s CRASH, with Katherine Dunn’s GEEK LOVE mixed in, South’s unsettling novel is an eerie and dark sendup of our first-world capitalist culture, where the consequences of our toxic habits and malignant carelessness are supernaturally manifested first upon the female body. Through its absurdist premise, it also mines the manner in which we cope with illness and our increasing reliance on immediate gratification and disposability.