Bookshots: "Lungs Full Of Noise" by Tessa Mellas

Bookshots: "Lungs Full Of Noise" by Tessa Mellas

Bookshots: Pumping new life into the corpse of the book review


Lungs Full Of Noise

The themes explored in 'Lungs' transcend questions about femininity and move into the realm of humanity.

Who wrote it? 

Tessa Mellas—PhD candidate and winner of the Iowa Short Fiction Award. Stories from this collection appeared in PANK and Lightspeed

Plot in a Box: 

Twelve magically realistic stories exploring women's issues, culture, society and psychology. Features lots of skin pigment alteration and bodily transformation.

Invent a new title for this book:

50 Shades of Femininity (Sorry, tacky joke.)

Read this if you liked:

Karen Russell's Vampires in the Lemon Grove, anything by Aimee Bender, or anything published by PANK. 

Meet the book’s lead (or rather, a lead from one of the stories): 

Bibi from Jupiter, a green, eyelid-less, asexual alien with feminine features. She studies neurobiology with an emphasis on stem cells.

Said lead would be portrayed in a movie by: 

Ellen Page and a lot of CGI.

Setting: Would you want to live there?

The worlds of Mellas's Lungs are bleak, cold, snowy, destructively windy and rainy. So no.

What was your favorite sentence? 

The sound of our speech swarms like the hiss of cicadas thrashing out of their husks. (From "Quiet Camp")

The Verdict: 

If Bookshots used a star rating system, I’d give this one three out of five. Some of the stories in this collection—”Bibi From Jupiter,” “Quiet Camp,” and “Dye Job,” for instance—are quite good. They feature solid narratives with awkward or downright black humor and interesting, relatable protagonists dealing with no-easy-answer situations. Though some might label this book as “chick-lit,” I think the themes explored in Lungs transcend questions about femininity and move into the realm of humanity (and also, men should read "chick-lit"). Mellas provides readers a window into her unique imagination through evocative, near-poetic prose. Unfortunately (for me anyway), she often prefers word play over storytelling. Many of the ‘tales’ in Lungs slip into experimentation bordering on stream-of-consciousness. If you’re into this kind of writing, you might find this collection top-notch overall, but I found myself skimming the non-narratives in places.

That being said, Mellas’s home-run stories were quite excellent, and I would recommend picking up Lungs for those entries alone. Plus, the cover is pretty awesome.

Image of Lungs Full of Noise (Iowa Short Fiction Award)
Author: Tessa Mellas
Price: $17.00
Publisher: University Of Iowa Press (2013)
Binding: Paperback, 128 pages
Christopher Shultz

Review by Christopher Shultz

Christopher Shultz writes weird, dark fiction. His stories have appeared both online and in print, including most recently in Apex Magazinefreeze frame flash fiction and Grievous Angel. In addition to LitReactor, he has also written for Ranker.comCultured Vultures and At times, he dabbles in digital art and photography. Christopher lives in Oklahoma City with his fiancée Lauren and their two mostly well-behaved cats. More info at

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Richard's picture
Richard from St. Louis is reading various anthologies October 8, 2013 - 10:08am

I love PANK. I'll have to dig into this a bit more, sounds like some great stories in there.

LeahD's picture
LeahD from Boston is reading The Devil In The White City October 9, 2013 - 10:26am

I must admit, I'm intrigued by the cover and the "bodily transformations" (whatever that might entail). I've always wondered why magical realism and "chick lit" always seem to be closely associated.