Writing up notes for this post, as I battle a headache, pms and the making of a fodmap friendly (read: sliced vegetable layered) lasagna and if that’s not fate, then what is… hello & welcome to this week’s edition of short stories that I freaking adore, and let’s talk about some rad women writers!!
“The sun was collapsing with a glare that seemed prehistoric; I felt not only blinded but lost, or as if I had lost something. And again she appeared, the woman in the yellow bathrobe.”
from, ‘Majesty’ published in No One Belongs Here More Than You.
I’m not a fan of the word ‘quirky’ but it’s one way to describe Miranda July‘s collection, No One Belongs Here More Than You. Her stories – utterly human and affecting – deal with loneliness and the slightly more perverse side of life. Awkward, yet endearing and kind of graceful – you will either love or hate her, she’s either original or contrived.
There is a story called ‘The Swim Team’ about elderly people who live in a desert community being to taught how to swim in a bathtub. (OKAY YOU GOT ME AGAIN. Not sure what it is about old people & bath tubs but give me all the stories). In ‘Birthmark’ a woman loses her dear friend: a wine-stain birthmark. In ‘The Moves’, a father teaches his daughter how to pleasure women. So you get the idea. Revolting with a sense of charm, i.e. Human.
“This made her so angry that she did the dishes. We never did this unless we were trying to be grand and self-destructive. I stood in the doorway and tried to maintain my end of our silence while watching her scratch at calcified noodles. In truth, I had not yet learned how to hate anyone but my parents. I was actually just standing there in love.”
from, ‘Something That Needs Nothing’
Some of my favourites are: ‘The Swim Team’, ‘This Person’, ‘Mon Plaisir’ & ‘Something That Needs Nothing’ which I remember the most. (I have a shocking memory so if I don’t remember things it doesn’t mean they didn’t blow me away at the time). A solid 4.5/5 stars.
FUN FACT: July is a pretty spiffing film maker as well. Me and You and Everyone We Know and The Future are two I loved. And I still think about her recent novel The First Bad Man on a weekly basis.
“We met twice a week in my apartment. When they arrived, I had three bowls of warm tap water lined up on the floor, and then a fourth bowl in front of those, the coach’s bowl. I added salt to the water because it’s supposed to be healthy to snort warm salt water, and I figured they would be snorting accidentally.”
from, ‘The Swim Team’
Single, Carefree, Mellow is Katherine Heiny‘s debut collection and what a debut it was! Contemporary with both charm and wit and a little snarkiness thrown in too. The title story is one of about three(?) in a set of interlinking stories dispersed throughout the collection. Heiny’s prose focuses on modern women and their extra-marital choices, their sexual freedoms and a life chosen despite of its dictations. It was an easy read but that’s not denying Heiny’s talent. Her writing is simultaneously subtle and laugh-out-loud funny and very American NY Girl if that’s your thing.
“The cake you bake on the morning of your son’s eighth birthday party is strangely slanted to one side. You check the oven rack but it looks perfectly straight. You wonder uneasily if maybe the house is canted on its foundation. Your children could be growing up with one leg longer than the other.”
from, ‘That Dance You Do’
I enjoyed the title story and its main character Maya and it was delightful to meet her again throughout the collection at different stages in her life in ‘Dark Matter’ & ‘Grendel’s Mother’. I also enjoyed: ‘Cranberry Relish’, ‘How To Give the Wrong Impression’ and ‘Blue Heron Bridge’ had me giggling a bit.
“Josie thinks that the problem with being a writer is that you miss a lot of your life wondering if the things that happen to you are good enough to use in a story, and most of the time they’re not and you have to make shit up anyway.”
from, ‘Cranberry Relish’
FUN FACT: Heiny’s debut novel Standard Deviation was published this month.
Lucia Berlin. What more can I say. Everyone raved about this collection and don’t be fooled by the hype, for this selection of stories is definitely worth your time. Berlin’s prose is insanely gorgeous. She has been likened to Carver and Munro. Her innately human stories are both heartbreaking and humour filled with articulation not unlike Chekhov. Not a word is wasted and although some stories went over my head there are others I could read over and over again and still be continuously filled with feelings of warmth and how can you possibly write so damn beautifully?!!!
“She was silent. But I could see death working on her. Death is healing, it tells us to forgive, it reminds us that we don’t want to die alone.”
Berlin manages to infuse everyday situations with such profound feeling it’s astounding, really. Just go and read them and see for yourself. All the stars, 5 stars.
Stories I have marked with a tick in my edition: ‘Phantom Pain’, ‘Toda Luna, Todo Año’, ‘Good and Bad’, ‘Melina’.
Stories I have drawn hearts beside on the contents page: ‘Friends’, ‘Bluebonnets’, ‘Mourning’ & ‘So Long’ and I have drawn a star beside ‘Point of View’ whatever that means :’)
“You arrived a few days after the blizzard. Ice and snow still covered the ground, but we had a fluke of a warm day. Squirrels and magpies were chattering and sparrows and finches sang on the bare trees. I opened all the doors and curtains. I drank tea at the kitchen table feeling the sun on my back. Wasps came out of the nest on the front porch, floated sleepily through my house, buzzing in drowsy circles all around the kitchen. Just at this time the smoke alarm battery was dead, so it began to chirp like a summer cricket. The sun touched the teapot and the flour jar, the silver vase of stock.
A lazy illumination, like a Mexican afternoon in your room. I could see the sun in your face.”
from, ‘Wait a Minute’
keep well and read women,
do svidaniya xx