Sometimes you discover an author who has been writing for many years, but you don’t know, and it makes you wonder: how is it possible that I’ve never encountered this extraordinary voice? This collection of stories by the late Lucia Berlin, published in 2015, was one of those books for me. Some of these stories literally took my breath away-I’d have to shut the book and sit with it for a while before moving on. Berlin’s writing is spare, economical, sharply observant, hilarious–also dark, harrowing, and real. Loosely autobiographical, the stories trace the life of a brilliant narrator who struggles with alcoholism and abusive relationships, yet retains her humor and her humanity. Her writing draws you in with its dry wit, disarms you with its humor, then compels you to gaze on something you probably didn’t want to see–and yet you can’t turn away.
Category: Short Stories
Mother of Sorrows is a novel (or perhaps a collection of short stories) about a gay man growing up in 1950s suburban America and then living as an adult during the AIDS crisis. Across this timespan we witness the narrator’s changing relationship to his family members and his sexuality. McCann is a poet as well as a novelist, and his prose is beautiful and sometimes heartbreaking; every word is intentional. I loved the way that his descriptions of the most mundane objects turned them into something meaningful.
This book was recommended to me by a friend as “The Things They Carried for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.” It’s an apt comparison: like O’Brien’s The Things They Carried, each chapter of Redeployment tells the story of a Marine at home or currently deployed. Beyond his keen eye for detail, Klay’s most impressive achievement is his construction of clearly distinct voices for his narrators that makes each chapter feel completely unique and deeply personal. At times tragic, at times farcical, and affecting throughout.
Author: Joan Wickersham
Reviewer: Dr. Angela Wiseman, Assistant Professor, Elementary Education
This book features seven short stories that focus on love and relationships among very different kinds of people at different times in history (in fact, two of the stories are based on prominent historical figures). The one strand that connects these stories together is that a phrase “the news from Spain” that emerges in each story. By using vivid descriptions, realistic characters, and true to life relationship contexts, I found myself drawn into complex and insightful stories.
This collection contains one of my favorite stories of the supernatural, “Casting the Runes.” It begins with letters of regret to a Mr. Karswell, who responds badly to the rejection of his work on alchemy… In this collection, published exactly 100 years ago, the stories have an atmosphere perfectly suited to the events: “So he put his hand into the well-known nook under the pillow: only, it did not get so far. What he touched was, according to his account, a mouth, with teeth.”