REVIEW: The Jaybird’s Nest and Other Stories

Tuesday , 2, December 2014 3 Comments

The Jaybird’s Nest and Other Stories by Jill Domschot

Had the robust seeds of magical realism not been planted in such infertile ground as Marxian social “development,” the genre might have become much more than the parochial domain of only one of its early masters (Specifically: Borges, the only author of such literature whose talent for the truth superverted the mandatory “literary Leftism” of the ex-centric revolutionary element of magical realism. There are only two other authors of magical realism whose stories are even readable through the haze of their own tired politics, but Borges is first and foremost a storyteller, and a great one.)

The Jaybird’s Nest and Other Stories is a new fiction anthology by Jill Domschot that effortlessly strips the ingrained revolutionary ornamentation from magical realism, and lets it fly unburdened through the night.

And through the night it shall go. I’m not much of a market watcher, but it probably doesn’t take one to note that Libertarian Magical Realism is not quite poised to knock Romance and Thrillers off the bestseller lists. You’ve probably been here long enough to realize that such an observation really doesn’t matter. What matters is quality, and Jaybird’s Nest has it.

On a national level, there were two: I could have care with the Troglodytes (as represented by the mad scientist) or with the Gobernadoras (as represented by the bruja). The Troglodytes were a group of conservative, male doctors who were against child caps and divining. Pat despised them—she was quick to tell me—as she insisted they were gleeful about removing female anatomy. This was because they preferred hysterectomies to magic.


The Gobernadoras were the supposed traditional curanderas who would perform anything and everything at their own discretion. Ah, that was still a controversial subject for some people, such as medical historians. Pat ran off to her bling booth before I could manage to form any words. The other healthcare woman, quiet up to that moment, gave me a pitying look.


“Don’t worry, the Troglodytes are outlawed in this state,” she informed me. “But it’s the national law to tell you they’re available as an option.”


~From “Embrace the Cardboard Troglodyte”

Although the book suffers from the near-universal ailment of Anthology Unevenness, it does so in an unusual way. Typically an anthology has stories of varying quality, a range of “hits” and “misses.” Jaybird’s Nest doesn’t have so many misses as it has misplacements: stories that would come off stronger (especially the clever Map-themed and anthropological Sardon stories) in a different order and placement. In fact, the LifeMap concept has the potential of shifting this anthology from a collection to a hypertext fix-up novel on its own, with Sardon stories serving as more overt fragments of the anthropological history of the doomed flannel-graph planet in “The Greatest Story Ever Told.”

Whoa, whoa. Let’s back up here. Good Magical Realism is heady stuff, but even the most bold and revolutionary texts may end up with poison pages.  Let me see if I can keep you from keeling over before you get to the good parts.

So, some of the good parts, in no order but awesome order:

  • “Embrace the Cardboard Trogolodyte” – A funny – and by funny I mean “set the thing down to laugh” – and true – and by true I mean “move around it if you have to because its not going anywhere” – sort of action parable about the monstrous nature of the U.S. two-party system, as told through the triumphant murder of health care. What was I saying about poison pages?
  • The Twilight Zone-styled (and just as heavily named) “Is Truth Beauty or Beauty Truth?” could be read with Rod Serling’s intonation, just so long as he is standing at a mall kiosk, offering you a sample of something revolutionary.
  • Some serious but subtle wordplay comes to the fore in “The Grimmest Error Reaps Death,” and whether or not my suspicion is correct that this is one of those stories that develops from an interesting and metapoetic title, the story itself stands on its own as an exploration of sin and the perfect demands of holiness.

There are many more like this, as well as a pair of recurrent themed stories (the above mentioned “Maps” and “Sardon” tales). I could probably fall into the trap of describing the other stories in cliches typically reserved for literary fiction:

  • After all “She Had Three Babies” is deeply haunting, but unlike so much Magical Realism, it has something more to say than …”be haunted.”
  • A few stories, such as the wicked “United Gypsy Services” seem to have one extra paragraph at the end. It ends so strongly and so perfectly in the penultimate paragraph that the brief explanation that follows is superfluous.
  • “An Irrational Robot is a Happy One” explores gender issues, but unlike its high literary brethren, actually finds something of interest in the underground catacombs.

Speaking of underground, The Jaybird’s Nest and Other Stories is downright subterranean. The stories are deep dives into what makes us human, but Domschot takes no pains to filet the surface in her choice to explore the labyrinth below. No sunlight will artificially touch these buried artifacts.

To find them, you are going to have to strip down, hold your breath, and dive in.

The Jaybird’s Nest and Other Stories (Paperback and E-book)
Author: Jill Domschot
  • Jill says:

    What a great review! I’ve never had my work called “libertarian magical realist” before.

  • Sean says:

    Just getting on the list.

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