I remember the first time I read Self-Help and when I picked up Lust and Other Stories. There was this intimidation, this contempt, this other sadness I remember the first time I read Self-Help and when I picked up Lust and Other Stories. There was this intimidation, this contempt, this other sadness. I wanted to be this good. I wanted to crawl, to burrow into the reader and make myself known.
Gaitskill's collection creeps in like that... at first I was kind of bored. I wasn't impressed with the beginning stories.. it was what I had been experiencing this entire year with the books that I've chosen to read. Meh. But, with Mirror Ball I began to feel that clenching, that annoying jealousy. With an opening line "He took her soul--though, being a secular-minded person, he didn't think of it that way." I was right back at that growling, mewling MINE stage.
Seriously, this sucks.
I am not a good person, I want to applaud these women, I want to feel some sisterly bonding with them, but I know that if I had the chance, I would so pull their hair and scratch at their eyes.
I am the effaced soul on the musician's floor, I am the agonized face, I am the monsters, the demons, the Alzheimer's, the malaria ridden day laborer, the stupid trysts.
It’s 7:55am. I’m at the light at Susie Wilson Road. (Local folklore states that Susie Wilson was the town Madam. Bit of trivia for you there…) I wokeIt’s 7:55am. I’m at the light at Susie Wilson Road. (Local folklore states that Susie Wilson was the town Madam. Bit of trivia for you there…) I woke up 10 minutes ago, showered, dropped my kid off at school and here I wait. I hate this light. I hate driving. Most of all, I hate vanity plates. ‘GOTHAM1’ is in front of me. A blue mid 2000s Durango. I’m sure that Batman would be honored. I wonder if other superhero fans nod or finger pistol the driver like there is some sort of unspoken clubhouse sign that shows solidarity. You know, like when bus drivers or bikers wave to each other? Maybe he has the bat symbol on his headlights or a set of wonder twin rings in the glove box. ‘GOTHAM1’ is not like its namesake. It takes a good 20 seconds for it to ease up on the gas at the light. I wonder if there is a ‘GOTHAM2’ somewhere and if their avatars bunk together.
I chastise myself for being so hackneyed in my reveries. Who am I to judge? I read vampire books and watch the CW (on occasion).
Still… I was never a full out geek. When I say ‘geek’, I’m talking physics geeks, mathematics geeks, engineering geeks, sci-fi geeks, computer geeks, various science geeks, movie and film geeks (cinephile), comic book geeks, theater geeks, music geeks (including band geeks), art geeks, philosophy geeks, literature geeks, historical reenactment geeks, video game geeks, roleplay geeks. Whovians, cyberpunk geeks, steampunk geeks, Trekkies, Jedis, D&D, BSG, TMNT, HPRP, LARP, MMORPG, GED/J d-- s:++>: a--C++(++++) ULU++ P+ L++E---- W+(-) N+++ o+ K+++ w--- O-M+ V--PS++>$ PE++>$Y++ PGP++ t-5+++ X++ R+++>$tv+ b+ DI+++ D+++ G+++++ e++ h r--y++**,LOTR, Buffys, Wesleys, RHPS, "bright young man (or woman) turned inward, poorly socialized, who felt so little kinship with his(her) own planet that he (she) routinely traveled to the ones invented by his(her) favorite authors, who thought of that secret, dreamy place his(her)computer took him (her) to as cyberspace—somewhere exciting, a place more real than his(her) own life, a land he(she) could conquer, not a drab teenager's room in his(her)parents' house." (as defined by Julie Smith (not sure if they meant the soft core porn actress or the mystery novelist)).
Okay, now that I’ve offended a great deal of people who are furiously hunting down my IP address and inserting many a virus to my account, I will get to the point. (yes, there is one)
I am a booknerd. A proud one. I haven’t given into the ‘man’ yet and bought a Kindle or a Nook or Ipad or whatever. I still haul around 2-3 books and notebooks everywhere I go. I juggle coffee and hardcovers on shuttle buses and never (NEVER) pass a bookshop without checking it out. I feel a kinship with the geeks. (“Ohhh. Great warrior. Wars not make one great.”) I really do.
Geektastic is the neutral zone for booknerds and geeks (yes, there are many that are one in the same and kudos to you if you are, you will long rule middle earth or something.) 15 stories about teen angst written in the geek narrative. There is the classic Romeo and Juliet (Jedi Apprentice and Klingon-respectively)tale where ComiCon is the new Verona.
There is a raver of a Role Playing party hosted by a polyamorous middle aged Xena at her lakeside condo where Catherine Earnshaw hopes to meet Heathcliff but instead falls for Mr. Kool-Aid who really turns out to be Heathcliff without all the asshole traits (Cyrano De Bergerac)
There is the Buffy Sing Along (ala Rocky Horror) where our hero, Dawn, stands up to all the Buffys and speaks for all the ‘previously unknown, never-mentioned, pseudo-sibling who appears suddenly out of nowhere’ gaining the admiration of her peers (sort of) (Cinderella?)
There is the online relationship twist where a young girl (Enchantress Magic Eightball) travels to New York to meet her first love (the master thief Boggle) and to tell him that she is really just a 15 year old girl from Keokuk, Illinois and hopes that his 34yr old non-profit tech self won’t really mind. (‘To Catch A Predator’??)
There is the story of Dino Girl, a freshman who has only ever had eyes for the Jurassic type..always ‘a Compsognathus among Carcharodontosaurs’ until she meets Jamie Terravozza. The junior baseball player in her science class and suddenly hormones make the scene and the cropolite hits the fan. (Any teen movie in the last 25 years)
What I’m saying is that you need not be a geek to enjoy these stories. Yes, I haven’t done them justice with my flip little paragraphs, but they are as precious as Eärendil. Some of my favorite YA authors contributed to this anthology, Barry Lyga, Wendy Mass, M.T. Anderson, Garth Nix, John Green and so on...Pure ‘Please, Captain, not in front of the Klingons’ young adult nirvana. This may be the best book that I’ve read this year. ...more
“It occurred to me that the quiet in the suburbs had nothing to do with peace.”
I believe it is time for another identity crisis. It has been a few yea“It occurred to me that the quiet in the suburbs had nothing to do with peace.”
I believe it is time for another identity crisis. It has been a few years. My neurosis is making farm animals out of dust clusters in this particular corner and screaming to be taken for a walk. It’s time to lube up and face the fact that I might just be becoming one of those women that I want to kick in the shins with my doc martens and spit and spew snarky, inappropriate, gen x’er, manifesto-esque, Jenny Holzer Truisms back at their vapid expressions. Harsh? You think?
Except… I think… maybe it’s not so bad. I nod and smile at people in the village market. I balk at leaving the house after 8pm. I attend Family Fun Night at the local park. I read to the 1st graders at the elementary school. I like drinking wine on my deck. WTF? I have to doubt all my actions now. I’m losing my edge and it’s such a slippery slope into Dullsville.
Reading TGGTHAF did not numb this dark and stormy mood. I had heard from other readers that it let them down. I have learned from Papa Ingalls ‘…don't have expectations. Expectations in your life just lead to giant disappointments.’ (Seriously???… Highway to Heaven, my ass….) Still, I did go in with a bad attitude.
Thing is, I really did enjoy these little stories. They made me think back to college when I was reading Lust and Self-Help: Stories and wanting so much to emulate these amazing writers. I can’t fault Melissa Bank for doing what I always wanted to. Yes, there are the familiar scenarios: first love, jealousy, cancer, parental death, yadda yadda yadda… Christ, someone somewhere really should throw out some of these formulas. Damn writing teachers! ‘Write what you know!’ That’s fine if you don’t come across as clichéd or, god forbid, boring. What I like about these stories are that they center (mostly) on the same character, Jane, so you see her growth and still get to chuckle at her snarcastism. “he tried to smile, but it was just a shape his mouth made”.
There are so many times while reading that one-liners like this stopped me and made me read them again. To me, that makes it worthy of at least 3 stars. Bank brings it to the next level by making me care about this girl and to see the fault lines before the rumble. Sure, it’s all part of the plan but it still sucked me in. “When you mention antidepressants, he looks at you as though suddenly discovering that you have the depth of a Doublemint twin.”
The second-person-singular story “You Could be Anyone” amped this up to 4 stars. I am a sucker for this narrative. I always have been. It’s overly dramatic and it brings the story right to me. I am ‘you’ and I am just fine with that.
“At Christmas-and Hanukkah-and Kwanza time you’re blue because you don’t belong to a religion, and his---psychoanalysis---doesn’t have any holidays. He makes a candelabra out of wire hangers and duct tape. He lights sparklers and wings a prayer, listing what he believes in---“The Bill of Rights,” which he recites from memory, natural-grass baseball diamonds, and your breasts.”
Yes, there are many writers out there of this genre and cynics can say that Bank is just another wet squib. But, she’s one of my wet squibs. I see us as BFFs bantering and bumbling through girly girl things while drinking port wine out of the bottle and dribbling all down our Smiths t-shirts. Give me this so I can smirk at the next Junior High Spirit Night.
The title story is also a favorite of mine. The hunt for the perfect husband. The game that must be played to attract the right guy. Jane buys the guide to finding this elusive creature and it is filled with helpful suggestions such as: “Don’t be yourself!” “Say yes to everything you’re invited to!” “Don’t say ‘I love you’ first! Wear your hair long! Don’t bring up marriage!” “Don’t accept a date less than four days in advance!” “Don’t be funny!” “Don’t be negative!” “Keep him guessing!” “Get out there!” Gah… - talk about making your skin crawl.
There is one scene that especially seizes..and hasn’t let go. Jane is discussing how she and her suitable suitor have attended a series of one-act plays by David Ives. She talks about one in particular… TIME FLIES, “where two lonely but sweet young mayflies meet at a pond and really hit it off. Unfortunately, Horace and May watch a nature program on this first night out and discover they have a lifespan of only one day—and their lives are half over.”
“Leaving the theater, Robert and I are both dazzled and exuberant, talking at once and laughing, and we spontaneously kiss. He says, “I want to mate with you and die.”
There’s that whoosh of oxytocin that I’m looking for. The thing that makes me wonder if I’ll ever grow up and see that all of this as just fiction and that the more I want to believe the more that I will be let down. That I am severely close to becoming one of these and that I will lose the irony.
Here is how the book ends (no spoiler.. not really)
“Instead of laughing, he pulls me in. We kiss, we kiss, we kiss, in front of Jezebel and all the cartoons. There is no stopping now. Both of us are hunters and prey, fishers and fish. We are the surf n’ turf special with fries and slaw. We are just two mayflies mating on a summer night.”
I love a good short story. For awhile, it was my favorite genre (if you consider it one, it is, right?) I love that I can take 10 minutes to maybe anI love a good short story. For awhile, it was my favorite genre (if you consider it one, it is, right?) I love that I can take 10 minutes to maybe ½ an hour and invade someone else’s space. I could be sitting on a park bench but really I’m sitting in a café in Paris or I’m waiting at the dentist but really I’m a jealous husband sitting in my living room watching my wife and her blind friend flirt it up.
Voyeurism in quickie form.
Lorrie Moore, Susan Minot, Raymond -freaking-Carver, Hemingway… these were my afternoon delights. (I’m a nerd, I know.)
The Fieldnor Press sent me this collection from E. Thomas Finan. Free book!!! My pupils dilated, my heart sped up, I needed my fix. What I’m not sure of is… am I supposed to write a positive review now? Did they just buy my vote? Will the author yell at me if I don’t like it? Oh, the angst.
The Other Side is a collection of 7 stories where the characters are experiencing some sort of awakening. Or not. There are metamorphoses, sometimes.
I think the big hit in the collection is Lucy di Sartoria. I think that this is my least favorite. It deals with infidelity and image and I felt the characters were hollow. Maybe that’s what Finan was going for, but I don’t work that way. I need to have some sort of empathy in order to block out all the crap around me, otherwise the sounds of video games and fighting children and doors banging infiltrates and the book goes down, maybe for days. You really only have one shot with me for a short story to really be successful. I have to be able to ignore all things domestic and lose myself in the plot for however long a short story takes me. That’s part of the appeal, right? In this story, I really didn’t care that Lucy was bored and lonely. To me, she was a vapid model who married to help solidify her place in society. So what if she had some sort of epiphany and sought out whatever… It didn’t take. Sorry.
The other stories were a bit more successful. I really enjoyed Motley Black. The character reminded me of a friend with his clever, caustic view of the world. His bus ride from Los Angeles to Key West, his only friends being Robert Burton’s The Anatomy of Melancholy and Foley, the obnoxious bus buddy who won’t leave him alone. This one made me smirk and nod my head in understanding.
Billy Stevens is 28, The Tie that binds and 'Dunes of White Elephants (yep, I got the reference) were fleshed out but somewhat formulaic and again detached. Stories of paths not taken, regret, yadda yadda yadda. No, that’s mean. They were good, but they didn’t stick with me.
I enjoyed An Aria of Windrows because it felt like sentences you would scratch out on napkins or the back of receipts and then compile later to meld with one theme. It could be pretentious at times but it was still a nice read. Probably my favorite of the bunch. I liked this paragraph a lot.
"How much goes into making something. Each potato chip’s a grand symphony of life. How much has woven together to get that potato chip to your hand. One might say it’s the work of a universe’s lifetime. The dirt, the nutrients, the seeding, the generations of men behind that one hand that operated the combine..the hand that sticks itself into the plastic glove at the actory..the hand at the factory for the plastic glove..behind the delivery truck..the wheels forging hot..so much, so much.. The list’s as long as it is hackneyed. Everything’s like that.”
I have to say that usually the quality of the writing is not something that I pick at. If a story draws me in, I could care less if it was grammatically correct (since I rarely am.) It just needs to flow. In some of these stories, I would be jarred out of the plot by an awkward sentence like a repeating of a word or a particularly odd phrasing. It may just be me. How my internal voice works. I don’t know.
Overall, I think this is a good example of a debut. Will he be a ‘new voice in American letters’ like the back blurb says? Perhaps. ...more
So, I didn’t read the Complete short stories of Hemingway. I wanted an introduction, I’d always thought of Hemingway as..well, I’d never really givenSo, I didn’t read the Complete short stories of Hemingway. I wanted an introduction, I’d always thought of Hemingway as..well, I’d never really given him much thought. He was just someone I wasn’t interested in reading. Lord help me, I can be dense.
I’ve read about a dozen of the stories in this anthology. I asked my husband for his opinion on which ones I should start with and I think that I’ve read a fair sampling, I’ll probably continue to pick this up every now and then and throw another one down. Some of these stories are what I expected of Hemingway. When I think of him, I see a large man, with a gun and a cigar and hell bent on killing something. I see wilderness and war, I see the old sea captain and the disillusioned writer in the euro café. And sometimes I see my grandfather but that just might be the Gary Cooper influence.
I was expecting the hunting, fishing, wilderness angle and The Big Two Hearted River Part I & II delivered with a yawn. The morality of The Good Lion and The Faithful Bull was fine and dandy and the cleverness of Homage to Switzerland wasn't lacking. These stories didn't give me that jaw dropping, must read everything effect that I so often hope for, but they were well written and entertaining.. Mostly, they were short and bearable.
Now the ones that I can truly say blew my Havana lovin', Zelda hatin', Hemingway image apart were A Day's Wait, a quick 4 page story about a child thinking he is about to die and how he prepares for this. I was impressed with the emotion that was so quickly and brilliantly emoted. I remember when I was about six or so, I swallowed a penny and thought I was going to die. It's not a good feeling, people. I remember standing over my parent's bed trying to prep them for this. I totally relate to Schatz.
And the acerbic tone in The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber, The Seeing-Eyed Dog, Hills like White Elephants, and The Snows of Kilamanjaro were awesome. I've always been down with the cynical, the mean-spiritedness, and this somewhat frightens me that I'm so attracted to it, because I'm really trying to be a better person. Hell if I can't enjoy some of the nastiness.
My favorite of the bunch is the first story that I was told to read.. A Clean, Well-Lighted Place. I'm sure many of you goodreaders are already aware of this gem, but I have to say even late to the game, I was just stunned by it. So short and so poignant. So beautiful. It makes me want to take on a sugar daddy so I can sit in European cafés mumbling nada y pues nada y nada y pues nada.
Okay, so I just read The Awakening. What a novella before its time! You’v
The Awakening ~ A Review in Two Parts ~
Me, 20 years old, circa early ‘90s
Okay, so I just read The Awakening. What a novella before its time! You’ve got Edna Pontellier, manipulated into a stodgy marriage, her husband expecting her to conform to society’s rules and trappings. She now has 2 children and is feeling the pull of wanting to be her own person. An artist, a free thinker, not meant to stay at home and accept visitors. On a summer vacation in Grand Isle, she meets Robert Lebrun, a younger idealist, not as wealthy but still the type who will cater to her every whim. Who sees the person that she wants to be and doesn’t deny her that sense of self. Edna falls into the lull that women crave.. ‘lull’ isn’t the correct word. It’s almost opposite of what I want to say, I’d go more with the excitement of being feverishly desired by a handsome young man. It’s addicting, more than addicting, it’s dangerous. However, for some reason, Robert leaves for Mexico and Edna is left with her marriage and her position in society. She starts to act out and her clueless husband is concerned:
It sometimes entered Mr. Pontellier’s mind to wonder if his wife were not growing a little unbalanced mentally. He could see plainly that she was not herself. That is, he could not see that she was becoming herself and daily casting aside that fictitious self which we assume like a garment with which to appear before the world.
Okay, so she’s not entertaining guests, she must be crazy. Upon returning to New Orleans, she continues to find herself and after her children and husband leave for an indeterminate amount of time, she starts to find her independence. She moves out of the mansion and into a ‘pigeon house’ around the corner, she begins an affair with a local playboy and all the while she still yearns for Robert.
I won’t go into anymore of the plot, but to say that I can see how it would be considered a scandal when released back in 1899. Women didn’t follow their heart or their minds, they were objects upon marriage, losing all identity. Society dictates that she marry well and put up pretenses and she fights back! As Susan Powter would say, ‘Stop the Insanity!’ The Awakening shows that women are capable of being individuals and believing in everlasting love that breaks all conventions. Bring forth the Spice Girls and rock on.
Me, Now, somewhat older…
Edna Pontieller, what a narcissistic little hussy you are. Okay, look….It’s 1899… you’re married to a guy that adores you… Yeah, so he thinks that you might want to act like a woman of the times.. maybe he’s a little off on the whole suffrage movement (which has yet to happen, DUH) and maybe you’re feeling a bit stifled in your marriage, but it’s a GOOD marriage, you want for nothing, you don’t have to take care of your somewhat non-demonic children, you get to vacation for entire summers… when you’re down your husband plans to redecorate the house for you. It’s not like he’s ignoring you! So, what exactly is the problem? He’s not hot? Yeah. He’s not young? Okay. He doesn’t swoon over your little paintings? Whatever. Look, the short of it is, you weren’t forced into the marriage, as much as you thought you had to find a guy that would look good in society and take care of you. You could have said no. Now, what the hell are you doing? Prancing around race tracks with the 1899 equivalent of Ashton Kutcher? Waiting for this poor fool who realizes the restraints of society to come and just be your little cabana boy? Hell, if this were modern times, you’d be reading Twilight and hanging out at skate parks. Get over yourself.
Okay, so that was The Awakening and if I had to rate this based on that novella alone, I’d go with 2 stars. I suppose I’ve got the Sherwood Anderson syndrome here and maybe it’s my fault for not understanding 1899 like I should… I go on my gut feelings, sorry. I’m reading this now, I’m judging it now. I can appreciate the time it was written in, but I’m not going to go gaga over a story that I pretty much think of as a cop out.
But, that being um… said… I did enjoy the other 15 stories, well, most of them. Kate Chopin was a hoot. I think she had the wit and the not so subtle talent and voice to let her feelings be known. She was bitter, yo. I don’t blame her… Widowed at 32 with 6 kids? Hell yeah. And, here she has this talent and what does she get when she publishes her work to make sure she can support her family? Shock, disdain, crap. Sorry… they can all go to Hell. She had balls. My suggestion is to read some of the shorter stories… I enjoyed The Story of an Hour, A Point at Issue!, A Lady of Bayou St. John, Athénaïse… those are my favorites, but they’re all short enough to enjoy and to see what a talented, wry writer she was. ...more
I believe I had a crisis of faith whilst reading Winesburg, Ohio. One of the bestest reasons for GR is that I've been ex
Okay, fine, I didn't like it.
I believe I had a crisis of faith whilst reading Winesburg, Ohio. One of the bestest reasons for GR is that I've been exposed to writers that I'd never heard of and to reviews that made me sit up and say 'To the library, NOW' and I really wanted to believe that I'd benefit from reading this. I really did.
So, uh... what went wrong? Where is this crisis of faith? Okay, maybe not faith---maybe foundation is a better word. See, I always sort of thought of myself as an equal opportunity hater, you know in the whole misogyny/misandry angle was never my thing. But, as I read Winesburg, I started to understand why Valerie Solanas penned her manifesto.
Okay, that's a bit harsh. I admit. But, still I don't like going there and unfortunately dear Sherwood made me question my misanthropy.
There are just a handful of women in Winesburg. I couldn't find one that I felt was justifiably written, in the sense of being 'real'... and represented. You have Elizabeth Willard, who has such a chip on her shoulder and such regret that she declares such statements as 'If I am dead and see him becoming a meaningless drab figure like myself, I will come back...I ask God now to give me that privilege. I demand it. I will pay for it. God may beat me with his fists. I will take any blow that may befall if but this my boy be allowed to express something for both of us.” Way to go, Mom. So, she sits in her room with her son and they don't talk and it's awkward and does she say anything to George? Tell him how she has faith in him, thinks he's this great force to be reckoned with? (Bit, of an Elektra complex, maybe?) No... but she was dang passionate about it.
Then there's Louise Trunnion who is supposed to drop everything to walk with George (I begin to think here that has a bit of an ego thing going on... one of those qualities that just make me want to kick him in the shin, btw) and you know as Sherwood writes "She was not particularly comely and there was a black smudge on the side of her nose. George thought she must have rubbed her nose with her finger after she had been handling some of the kitchen pots.” Good old woman's work, thanks for taking one for the team, Weezie. But, hey she puts out... so we can forgive her lack of comeliness.
We've got Alice Hindman and her Adventure. You know, being used and thrown out by Ned Currie before he moved to Cleveland and bigger and better places East. She just knows that he'll be back, right? I mean, she was a weaver of carpets... such a catch. But, you know... years pass and she starts to feel like the spinster she has become and decides one night to run naked in the rain. ”She thought that the rain would have some creative and wonderful effect on her body. Not for years had she felt so full of youth and courage. She wanted to leap and run, to cry out, to find some other lonely human and embrace him. On the brick sidewalk before the house a man stumbled homeward. Alice started to run. A wild, desperate mood took possession of her. 'What do I care who it is. He is alone, and I will go to him,' she thought; and then without stopping to consider the possible result of her madness, called softly. 'Wait!' she cried. 'Don't go away. Whoever you are, you must wait.' The man on the sidewalk stopped and stood listening. He was an old man and somewhat deaf. Putting his hand to his mouth, he shouted. 'What? What say?' he called. Alice dropped to the ground and lay trembling.”
So, instead of snagging Brad Pitt she ends up with Red Skelton.
We have Tom Hard's daughter. Doomed with a calling and a new name before her 6th birthday. She lives in this pit of a town with her faithless dad and a stranger passing through gets drunk and ”...he dropped to his knees on the sidewalk and raised the hands of the little girl to his drunken lips. He kissed them ecstatically. 'Be Tandy, little one,' he pleaded 'Dare to be strong and courageous. That is the road. Venture anything. Be brave enough to dare to be loved. Be something more than man or woman. Be Tandy.'” Uh... 'Tandy' (stripper name???) be a good girl and go talk to Alice and Elizabeth and see what your future REALLY looks like, kay?
Then there's Kate Swift. The 'teacher'. Yes, poor Kate... peeped on by the local clergyman as she reads and smokes cigarettes on a Sunday. Sinner. Poor Kate who is crushing hard on her former studly student, George. Who so wants to pull a Pam Smart except you know, she's not married and lives with her elderly aunt and all. ”At the age of thirty Kate Swift was not known in Winesburg as a pretty woman. Her complexion was not good and her face was covered with blotches that indicated ill health. Alone in the night in the winter streets she was lovely.” But, you know... after her wretched action of throwing herself at her former student she goes home and undresses and throws herself on her bed crying, beating her pillow and then begins to pray. So, of course good old peeping Minister Curtis is redeemed because Kate's become an instrument of God, bearing the message of truth.”. Yeah, that's it.
Okay... so where am I going with all this? Who the fuck knows. I just know what I'm feeling and that's pissed off. And I'm pissed off that I'm pissed off. I'm not THAT person that finds the nitpicky crap and whines about it, you know? Like I said, the world is my dumpster.
I don't see what the big deal is with this book. Maybe I'm missing out, obviously I am if I look at my friend's reviews of this. I did find it rather amusing that most of the ravings belonged to my male friends... hmmm...
Maybe it was the whole 'this book represents Middle America' angle and well, I'm not all that interested in Middle America.
But, I can't say that I'm all that blown away with the 'complex human beings whose portraits, rendered in Anderson's masterful prose, brought American literature into the modern age.' (back cover) So what, it was written in 1919. I don't think it was some great revelation that people make it out to be. Honestly... if I was interested in pre-industrial suburbia and it's dreariness, I'd read some Emily Dickinson.
I love Francesca. There's probably no one else that could get me to think about visiting Los Angeles. When I think of L.A. I think of asphalt, and traI love Francesca. There's probably no one else that could get me to think about visiting Los Angeles. When I think of L.A. I think of asphalt, and traffic, and The Miracle Mile and being... transient. Not like in homeless or anything like that, but just not being settled. That might be why I stick to the East Coast. There's a definite sense of history. Of being grounded, solid. I cling to that.
But, when I read Francesca, I feel that I could lose myself in those hills, hide in the canyon, that I want to explore the Pacific Coast Highway and find Houdini's Mansion and believe in fairies and centaurs and vampiric moms who feed off their daughters' youth.
Yeah, I know, right? This is a major coup for FLB. I'm not that easy to turn.
Blood Roses is a collection of short short stories centering around what the book jacket describes as 'transformation.' I see it as more of young girls getting by. Whatever their situation, whether it be unrequited love, losing a parent, not understanding your place in the universe...the death of that childlike innocence. It's about surviving.
I enjoyed the stories, but, I didn't love them. I think that these are good exercises, but not fully fleshed out. It made me a little sad to feel that way about FLB. But, no matter what, she still has that way with words that sends me spinning into this fairy tale land and wishing that I could take some of the strength that these girls have and store it away when I'm feeling less than...
Some examples of what is FLB:
"What shall we do, all of us? All of us passionate girls who fear crushing the boys we love with our mouths like caverns of teeth, our mushrooming brains, our watermelon hearts?"
"'Talk to me,' he said. (Every girl loves to hear those words from the right man. It is possible those words are the greatest seduction line ever. Especially if they are said without any ulterior motive, as Darby said them then." (yes, I am hopeless.)
"She missed Lincoln so much during the times she was away that her saliva dried up and her stomach clenched emptily. It was always a relief when she came home to him. Like water or food. Like music or that moment when you cut yourself with a knife and squeeze the skin and no blood oozes out." (see above)
I can’t really express how much this book affected me. I was thinking I might just skip the review thingy and just leave it as ‘holy shit’ and be doneI can’t really express how much this book affected me. I was thinking I might just skip the review thingy and just leave it as ‘holy shit’ and be done with it. Of course, I can’t do that. It’s been 3 days since I finished it and I find myself going back and rereading lines and calling up scenes. Why? Because these characters are better than me and I live in retrospect. These stories pull at my gut and bring me back to times where ‘shoulda’ and ‘maybe if’ exist even though I know I can never go back and undo what has happened. Those events and my actions are a part of me. They are noxious memories that cannot be candy coated. My bad.
Maybe I am a stereotype. One that writers can hone in on and know that I am where the $$$ is at. I seem to be drawn to a certain classification. Motherless-child-of-cancer-who-has-many-regrets (read: Catholic Guilt)-and-is-stunted-therefore-never-learning-how-to-be-a-real-grownup! Lorrie Moore, Susan Minot, Sonya Sones …they nail it. Now I can add Julie Orringer to the list. She captures the little girl who is strong when she has every reason not to be. She empowers these girls. Not all are part of the above classification. Some are just young girls thrown into situations that shape them.. Show how fierce they can be. I so admire this. This was so not me. I was invisible. My mom was dying and I ignored it. I fought with her, I didn’t listen to her medical updates, I turned up my radio when she was crying in the next room. I was angry that her illness took over my life. I was forced to babysit and cook dinner and clean up. I was 12 and hiding outside until after dark so I wouldn’t have to deal with the sighs of pain or the blank look in her face. I was 13 and staying over at a friend’s house, pretending that I was a normal girl with a normal life. I was 14 and wretching as I cleaned her hair out of the drain. What a bitch.
The girls in these stories are who I wish I had been. Helena in ‘What We Save’ who watches her mom shrink away and assumes the role of caregiver. Mira, the strong artist with the supermodel cousin in ‘When She is Old and I am Famous’ who doubts her talents yet still doesn’t pretend to be someone other than who she is. Ella in ‘Pilgrims’-- silent yet always seeing, always aware even when her parents are grabbing onto whatever fad might help them. (I was 15 and being dragged to church to pray when we had never really prayed before and what the hell would God do now?) Maddy in ‘The Isabel Fish’ -oh, Maddy, you might just be my favorite.. With your inner monologue--such perception!
I was 17, leaving home as soon as the diploma was in my sweaty hands. Running away seemed the best choice. I hid behind a thin wall of pretend adulthood. Set my own rules, see what I want to see, no silicone breasts or wigs or bottles upon bottles of medications set out with such reverence. Cancer dropped from my vocabulary.
I was 18 and my mother was nothing more than a skeleton. In the 5 months since I had moved she had withered. I couldn’t look her in the eye. I couldn’t say I was sorry. I couldn’t admit that I was so very wrong in the way I treated her.
These girls… they are incredible and I thank Julie for putting them to paper, fleshing them out, giving me a chance to know them and pretend I had chosen a different path. ...more
I wrote a review for this... almost four whole paragraphs, it had words like fallible, disquiet, and weightiness and I realized that it just plain ouI wrote a review for this... almost four whole paragraphs, it had words like fallible, disquiet, and weightiness and I realized that it just plain out sucked.
It comes down to this. It's all gibberish and it doesn't do this collection justice. See, even that sentence is just plain dumb.
The right words are failing me lately...whether it be exhaustion, stress, major inferiority complex issues, or all of the above, I don't know.
I finished the last story at 4:30am, Saturday night. I didn't read them in order, I'm like that.
They were all wonderful. I cried during Complicity, I loved Baby, Let's Make a Baby and the last story I read... Down in the Flood, well.. I've scrawled this passage on a sticky note and pinned it to the wall above my desk:
"When you get right down to it, there's not that many stories to separate folk. There's the love and there's the hurt, and everything else is a shade of inbetween."
I really have nothing more to say except: Thanks, Kirk. ;)...more
I didn't know what to expect going into these stories. I've never actually had the honor of reading a published piece of work by someone that I had inI didn't know what to expect going into these stories. I've never actually had the honor of reading a published piece of work by someone that I had interacted with. Well, except for Stitchy McYarnpants, but that's off subject.
Both books are amazing. I have always been a fan of the short story genre and actually Robber was my first foray into short short stories.
Jessica/Chairy succinct writing style draws the reader in, then spews them back out, straight into therapy.
Seriously, her characters are perverse! I often felt a strange tug in my gut while reading a certain passage or hell, whole story, in the case of Honda. I had to remind myself fairly often that these women were uh, fictional (see title)and not analyze every single post of Chairy's looking for that person. This is a true testament to the term: 'sucking you in'.
Chairy's characters remind me of this one woman that I used to see when I worked at the mall back in the day, the woman that sat on a bench across from Auntie Anne's Pretzels and would give me the ol' stink eye as I bought my pretzel dog, which then forced me to duck into Record Town until she found her next victim.
Cheers, Chairy! I'm calling my therapist now. ...more
I love this book... I love Lorrie Moore.. she made me realize that there are people like me out there and I am eternally grateful to her for this.. aI love this book... I love Lorrie Moore.. she made me realize that there are people like me out there and I am eternally grateful to her for this.. a definite read. ...more