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Love in Infant Monkeys by Lydia Millet
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's review
Jan 12, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: 2012

As I was about to check out at the library, I saw this book on the shelf of librarians' picks. I recalled that I had just seen that my friend Beth rated the book on goodreads. I was pretty sure she had given it a good rating, but I realized later that I wasn't positive about that. Still, after I finished another book, I picked it and gave it a shot. At first I was a little disappointed - I hadn't realized it was short stories. I am not a big fan of short story collections. Or, I guess, of short stories in general (which makes little sense as I used to write them myself). It just seems that there are so few that are well-executed. Endings in general are hard, but I find short story endings even harder. It's as if every short story writer wants to leave the read with a vague, unsettled sense. They feel incredibly esoteric. It feels like the story takes itself too seriously and thinks it is really, really deep.
Enough of that. That topic might need its own manifesto.
Not only did I enjoy Lydia Millet's stories, but I generally found her endings to be far less pretentious than most. I loved her unabashed use of real celebrities as characters (though I do wonder: did she have to get their permission? It's not an important question, but I did find it popping up more than once). More often, writers will give a character the traits of a known celebrity, but give it another name or no name at all (for some reason I really hate it when authors use "______" instead of giving a character a name. boy do i hate that.). I was willing to accept the dog owner as a generic celebrity, so when his identity was casually revealed, it was funny and clever. And stories that involve Nikola Tesla? How can that be bad? And Chomsky?? If you are going to use real people in your stories, these are some good ones to use.
I'm now curious about Millet's novels. I plan on reading one, and soon, to see how her style shifts between the different formats.
Oh - and I loved the illustrations. When I got to the "Sir Henry" story, I felt fairly certain that I knew what Beth liked about the book.
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Beth Anne ha! indeed. I really think I want to be friends with Lydia Millet because she seems like a cool lady. These stories were understated. They did not blow my mind, but they often made me smile. They were kind of like an inside joke for me? I sort of felt like she wrote the book for such a small sub-portion of the populus, and because I related to that small sub-portion I adored it.

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