Things to Make and Break

Stories by May-Lan Tan

October 2, 2018 • 5.5 x 8.25 • 224 pages • 978-1-56689-527-9

In relationships, there’s always you, me, and an interstitial presence—another person, a former self, a future lover.

Old relationships, past selves, hopes for the future—two people are never alone in a love story. In eleven short fictions, May-Lan Tan unspools worlds within worlds, the possibilities we seek out again and again, and the seemingly endless churn through self-invention and self-annihilation that is our search for connection. Sleeping with your sister’s husband’s brother, betraying bandmates, contriving to strike up a friendship with your boyfriend’s ex—Tan makes visible how all our dead ends are really mirrors, proxies, and reflections that keep us from seeing our way forward.

About the Author

May-Lan Tan studied fine art at Goldsmiths and works as a ghostwriter. Her stories have appeared in Zoetrope: All-Story, the Atlas Review, the Reader, and Areté. She lives in Berlin.

Thanks to a 2013 ADA Access Improvement Grant administered by VSA Minnesota for the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, this title is also formatted for screen readers which make text accessible to the blind and visually impaired. To purchase this title for use with a screen reader please call (612) 338-0125 or email us at info@coffeehousepress.org.


“There’s plenty of darkness and a sprinkling of magic, and these strange, flinty, cigarette-stained narratives speed by, offering lots of surface tension and compelling deeper passions.” —The Guardian

“Tan is a cinematic writer in the same way some directors are literary—think David Lynch at his most Guignol.” —Times Literary Supplement

“The thirteen stories found in these two books are a fantastic introduction to a writer in the process of teaching us new ways of reading.” —Vol. 1 Brooklyn

Things to Make and Break is omnisexual, and it’s mind-blowingly good.” —PANK

“These stories feel like they were written with a lit cigarette on the night wind. Tan has an imagination like a haunted carousel and each story here is like a ghost that wants only to talk to you. This is one of those debuts to remember, a name that bookmarks itself in your mind after the first story, or should—attention, as we say, must be paid. May-Lan Tan is here.” —Alexander Chee