I loved this book. I've been reading Elizabeth Ellen for years, but I was not prepared for scope of this collection. I can tell you m...moreBig, brave book.
I loved this book. I've been reading Elizabeth Ellen for years, but I was not prepared for scope of this collection. I can tell you my favorites - probably 1984 and Halfsies - but I read all these pieces interdependently, and the momentum they build is breathtaking. Really. I felt like the breath was knocked out of me when I had finished.
It's a sprawling book, and, structurally you would think it might not work. But it does. There are lengthy pieces that feel much like memoir, and there are short short pieces that can only be described as bites (as in someone biting into you), and long long stories. There are stories that take on an almost hallucinatory violence and there quieter pieces. Yet as a reader I had to connect them, and what I came away with when I had finished was the feeling of having known these characters, in dingy light, in daylight, poolside. Known them now and known their fat lonely sixteen year old selves.
Yet I would not call these coming of age stories, because time doesn't really feel linear in this collection. That comes, in part, from reading the pieces all together. There is the feeling that any one of her characters could slip again at any moment.
I also love the way Ellen writes stories set in the past - they capture the feel of the times, but I would not call them nostalgic. Her work has been called raw, vulnerable, fierce. It is all these things.
As long as this book is, I read it in just a few days. It's the kind of book you want to stay up all night reading. (less)
One of my favorite books about writing nonfiction is Vivian Gornick's THE SITUATION AND THE STORY; in it, she says that the writing we call personal n...moreOne of my favorite books about writing nonfiction is Vivian Gornick's THE SITUATION AND THE STORY; in it, she says that the writing we call personal narrative is written by people who, in essence, are imagining themselves in relation to the subject at hand. The connection is an intimate one; out of the "raw material of a writer's own undisguised being a narrator is fashioned whose existence on the page is integral to the tale being told." The narrator becomes a persona.
Iredell has found his persona - his voice - and it is full of heart, & humor. That voice is what I loved about this collection. As a reader I trust this voice. A through-line throughout the book is Iredell's new role as a father; his past, his observations, his self-examinations, are all seen through this filter. My favorite essay is probably "This Essay Cannot Sleep" - an essay that feels very much about the manic exhaustion accompanying insomnia. Then it ends and cracks wide opened into a sudden light-filled realization; he looks in on his daughter, fast asleep with her legs sticking out of the crib bars, "sneak-attacked" by sleep. It's an inspired, beautiful ending.
I love these shorts; I've been a big fan of Kim Chinquee's short flashes for years. Perhaps what I like most about reading her collections is how thes...moreI love these shorts; I've been a big fan of Kim Chinquee's short flashes for years. Perhaps what I like most about reading her collections is how these pieces inform one another, how all the pieces are facets of a beautiful narrative. When I finished this collection I wanted to go back and read it again, from the beginning. Pieces like "Girl" and "Twister" hit me like shots. She is a master. (less)