Natalie's Reviews > Birds of a Lesser Paradise: Stories

Birds of a Lesser Paradise by Megan Mayhew Bergman
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May 15, 12

really liked it
Read from May 06 to 13, 2012

Some of the stories in this collection are exceptional. Others, eh.

I was excited to read this collection after happening upon "The Cow Who Milked Herself" through Storyville (excellent App, by the way). I loved that story. It was throughful and tight and had animals in it. What more could a gal ask for? I was also excited because I read Bergman's bio and it talked about her husband the veteranian and discussed how she used this in her fiction.

There is a core of stories here that feel like they all go together and those are the ones I really enjoyed. In additon to "..Cow...", there were several others I enjoyed, including "Housewifely Arts", the title story, "Saving Face", "The Urban Coop", "Night Hunting" and "Every Vein a Tooth" (esp. this one, actually). But then there were others that went slightly weird--like "Yesterday's Whales" which had this sub-theme of a movement to not breed and let the human race die out. There was also a story where a daughter had quict her job because she believed the end of the world was neigh. Worst was "Artificial Heart" which was set somewhere beyond 2025 in a bad world where people could live way past their expiration dates, but oceans were dying. The main themes in this story--taking care of an elderly parent, losing quality of life and being kept alive by artificial means--would have been just as powerful if not set in this futurisic time, which honestly seemed alittle like an afterthought.

I don't want to be so harsh on the collection as a whole, as I did really like some of the stories. Again, it's a problem I very often have with collections. If I read a story individually, I'd like it much better. When I read a collection, I start seeing all the writer's little tricks, all the things that I don't like, because it's amplified through sheer number of stories.

On a side note, I checked this book out of the school library at the university where I teach. Between two of the back pages, there was a post-it from The District (a complex where many students live) with "attraction is accidental" written in pencil. I like the idea of seeing someone else's notes, knowing this little line from one of the stories that someone felt important enough to write down. I'm sticking it back in the book for when I return it, for some other reader to find.
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message 1: by Rhonda (new) - added it

Rhonda Browning White Isn't it interesting that you accidentally found a note that attracted you? :-)

I love reading your reviews, Natalie. And I'm a huge fan of short stories, in collections, anthologies, or otherwise. I agree about every collection having one or two stories we dislike. Do you think it's because the author tries to offer something for everyone? Folks with different tastes? I wonder about that as I work on my own collection of stories.


Natalie Thanks, Rhonda! Seeing this note from you reminded me how much I wish I was coming to Ripley this summer! Maybe next year.

I don't know if it's that an author is trying to offer something for everyone, or not. That seems like a reasonable reason, but when I'm writing, I think very little about that (which might be a problem). I wonder if, sometimes, it's just that a writer's taste has changed, or they're inspired by something and take a little detour. Collections are unique in that the can contain stories that were written over years and years, since for some it takes so long to get enough good stories to put together. So maybe that's it. I don't know. This collection just felt uneven in it's themes to me, but I liked it overall.


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