Antonya Nelson's writing is wise, lyrical and honest. I think she does her best with troubled adolescents and teens. The troubled adult stoires with a...moreAntonya Nelson's writing is wise, lyrical and honest. I think she does her best with troubled adolescents and teens. The troubled adult stoires with all the adultry and such are good, but not as terrific as her look into the world of troubled youth. She just nails it there. The problem with the adultry stories is probably me, because I have read so many of them, and while she offers her usual wit and complex take on affairs of the heart and mind, at times they can be a bit too ponderous. I wonder if she is overly ponderous in order to attempt to separate herself from the vast pool of like minded stories.
But when she does the kid, put away distractions, because you will not be able to leave these stories. She can step into teens' heads with compassion, honesty, whilst never taking the moral high ground. "Flesh Tone" which deals with a boy's obsessive longing for his dead mother rings so true it is painful to read. You love this mother who stands by his side, a ghost in his head. You understand why, despite her flaws, he is so attached to her. This part of his brain takes on life, and becomes a character. You wonder how she does it, this journey into a teenage mind. Brilliant story. Although I did think her end was a bit too nicely tied up and came across like a mother peeking into the story. Which is OK and was rather sweet and ironic. It's what a mother would perhaps write to end it, and quite appropriate given what the story is about--the impact a mother has eternally upon a child.
But the overall best story is saved for last--"Some Fun," her novella. This story reminded me of "The Point" by Charles D'Ambrosio, another story of a child who takes care of his child-like drunk mother and friends. "Some Fun" uses the same kind of idea to reveal the misery of alcoholism and its impact upon the children. We see the drunk through the eyes of the adult who simply happens to be a kid. Nelson manages to reveal a very complex love by analyzing how this daughter feels about her father who leaves and takes up with a sober more responsible woman. Eventually all the kids join him except this daughter who stays to take care of her funny, yet drunk mom. The child sees her father as a coward, taking the easy way out. And is the mother brave? Is this child of an alcoholic brave? Who is brave? It is a long story about the child of an alcoholic, in grand detail. All the emotion and dysfunction laid right out. Tremendously well done and important.
Very good collection. If you don't have time for the whole thing, start with the last story, one that to me should not be missed. (less)
A great collection of stories, told with lyrical voice, that happen to be short. Claudia writes for a good reader, not just for a writer. Many times,...more A great collection of stories, told with lyrical voice, that happen to be short. Claudia writes for a good reader, not just for a writer. Many times, flash, short shorts, feel gimmicky, lacking of feeling, written for a writer. Not true here. Every story has such detail, such careful character development, you feel dropped into a world for only a few moments. I think Claudia may prove that flash or short shorts can indeed be collected and sold to the mass markets.
I’m a great test market for a book like this, because, well, I don’t have much respect for women who sleep with other women’s husbands, who have no th...moreI’m a great test market for a book like this, because, well, I don’t have much respect for women who sleep with other women’s husbands, who have no thoughts about the family. I have seen the other side of it, the good woman, loyal, stuck with four children and a man screwing something else that could care less about her and her kids. Call me judgmental. I don’t want to be intimate with these women. I run from them~!
But I was intimate with Pia’s women. There is no way to read Pia Ehrhardt without being intimate. Pia writes so intimately, so sensually, the reading experience is a metaphor for sex. And I didn’t run.
I liked these women, because I was so involved in their world. Pia simply writes the story, with cool, controlled hand, observant eyes. There are no victims, no excuses. Women suffer intense consequences, and their veneer of coldness towards other women falls away, fast. No one escapes consequences in Pia’s world.Whether they become a sexually narcissistic mother who sends the teen off to school, then spends the day screwing her ex-husband’s brother (in a new room every day. Ha). Or whether they help their mothers with affairs and consider them themselves. Or connect with a man whose wife left him for a lover, not to understand this sad husband, but to understand the runaway wife. Whatever their circumstances, Pia allows them no excuse. She presents their world exactly the way it is. No whining. With subtle comments here and there, witty and profound, that help the reader understand.
They all ache. They are lonely. They ache. This comes out clearly in stories about other women in their lives—the sisters and mother. We love them for this intensity. And when we step into the mess they cause, we ache for them. The mother who has to listen to her daughter’s voice squeak out of the phone because the girl disrespects her mother so much she will only speak to her dad. The woman who gets slugged by the married man she carefully manipulated into an affair. We ache for them. (and yet, well, we don’t want them meeting our husbands! LOL)
“There is a thick black line between a woman who stays and a woman who leaves,” says the husband in “Driveway.” To which she responds (to us) a few pages later, “The difference between a woman who stays and a woman who leaves isn’t geography. You can be in the room and long gone; it’s bolting without a destination.”
An excellent book about intense, lonely women who love recklessly because they ache. They ache to be loved. They ache to love.They are in control, and, well, not in control. (less)
I loved Straight Man and Empire Falls, yet, while this one still has Russo's deep faith in humanity and excellent story telling voice, it was not quit...moreI loved Straight Man and Empire Falls, yet, while this one still has Russo's deep faith in humanity and excellent story telling voice, it was not quite as good for me. One reason is a problem with editing in the book business. Gone are the Gordon Lishes who are able to clean up manuscripts like Raymond Carver's and change a story from OK to brilliant. You get the feeling that no one touches 'name' writers at all. They just give them a pen and print the result.
I think if someone could have cut this down, cleaned it up (the exposition and telling became overbearing and very boring after a while) it could have been a much faster and enjoyable read.
Overall, I love how Richard Russo sees the world, how his characters are never dark monsters who do bad things, but ordinary people who struggle with their humanness and fail sometimes, yet ultimately end up on their feet, although bruised and limping.
These characters, however, seemed, at times, put on the page to make a statement. They were a collection of extremes to some extent. The gullable, naive. The cynic. The product of dysfunction (an artist of course). However, the story sometimes felt pushed along, and the characters felt pushed together. I had a hard time with motivation.
But Russo does have this gift of gab. He goes on and on and on, sometimes so discursively you wonder when we will get to the point. But you keep reading. Because he has a gift of gab. He reminds me of these men I used to know in small town South. They would start on a story about what happened to this man they knew who crossed a street without looking, then they would mention a hole in the road, and there you would be, listening to the history of a hole in the road--how the hole got there, how it widened, several stories about accidents resulting from the hole, what was lost in the hole--so by the time we got to the man crossing the street, you have to work at remembering the beginning.
But I liked those men. They knew everything. And while I walked away sometimes bored or confused, I would always go stand and listen to them all over again. They were happy and intrigued with life.