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contend for power and both fail, and one in which a father and daughter contend for power and both succeed, and—fused together like Escher’s “Drawing Hands”—the stories jointly offer a cautionary tale about how and when to listen. Shelf Unbound: You also both study and play with words. The young girl grows up to be a renowned “Ice Sculptor” and says in an interview: “He thought that by stripping the world of a word, it would be saved. But he hadn’t considered that language lives, and when it dies, it haunts. When he said classify, I heard calcify. This is why I have not changed.” Have you always had a fascination with words?
 Drager: I am the kind of writer who thinks of language as my medium. I don’t think everyone working in fiction, particularly long-form fiction, would say that, but I am very much in awe of and curious about how language shapes the way we understand the world. When I was young I remember being fascinated by word play, particular riddles and puns, and I used to spend hours working with homophones and heteronyms because they are such strange



phenomena. Early in The Lost Daughter Collective, the Ice Sculptor says, “My father is inside me by law, irrevocably, the same way there will always be laughter in slaughter.” I remember being quite young and staring at the word slaughter until I discovered the word laughter inside, and it was a kind of mesmeric moment, recognizing words contain and exhibit a kind of magic. I think this book is in some ways an ode to and a reflection on the problem of language—how it is both a vessel for liberating our interior and also the means by which we exercise control over one another. Shelf Unbound: You write: “What Peter thinks but cannot come to say: That he thinks of his son’s birth as a series of vignettes: cropped hair, skinned knees, bad words. That he thinks of his daughter as spectral.” What do you think it means to be a father’s daughter vs. a father’s son? Drager: This is such a wonderful and important question, and in some ways, this could be the question of the whole book: When it comes to family, who we are is always an identity in relation to those around us, but how willing are we to amend, refashion, adapt? Identity is fluid—gender

Shelf Unbound August-September 2017  
Shelf Unbound August-September 2017  

Special 7th Anniversary Issue