Saturday, October 1, 2011

good reading



This collection is lit gold. My story chain crew are going to read one of these stories whether they like it or not. Elissa Schappell writes about contemporary women so successfully. These girls really suffer. And the boys! Schappell's fate hand is cruel and yet these girls/women muster it all: courage, shame, humor, grace, guilt, and compassion. The stories are interconnected and so there are some heartbreaking unspoken connections the reader can discover, ghostly underpinning. A rape brought up close in one story is referenced in another from the perspective of a friend who can't get it together to be there for the victim. Teenage bullying and philandering haunt a woman as she tries to give her own son advice. Some of the best stories are Monsters of the Deep, The Joy of Cooking, (in One Story Magazine) and Out of the Blue and into the Black. The Joy of Cooking is a simple, brilliant premise. A mother must tell her daughter with an eating disorder how to cook a chicken. And, this story is mostly a phone call. It easily could be a mess of a story or overly wrought, but I found it very moving. Monsters of the Deep may be my favorite story of them all. It got under me and was great fuel for a day of writing. Honestly, though, this is one of those rare occasions where I relished every story. There are no lead sinkers here. The writing is fearless but also true and that's the gift. It's a comfort to read something relative and to get to witness a reckoning, a redemption. I didn't want this collection to end.

Two excerpts:

From "A Dog Story" --

"For some reason, Doulgas took my hand." This slayed me because a couple has lost a child and Schappel gives us a info bomb with that "for some reason." Being her husband and loving her isn't enough to explain. This woman's distrust and resentment from grief are all thrown into the questioning of that gesture.

From "The Joy of Cooking" and an example of an excellent first sentence --

"I was halfway out the door when the phone rang. Another person would have let the machine pick up, but you know how it is when you're a mother."