Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Today's Menu

Today's Menu: "what the world will look like when all the water leaves us," stories by Laura van den Berg

Drinking: said water that will someday leave us

Thinking: why is it that some books snag our hearts the very first time we glimpse them? I first saw this book a year ago while browsing on-line, and without having read a word, wanted it. Needed it. Kept thinking about it. Added it to every book wish list I scribbled in random places. I loved the cover photo, and the searing intensity of the title. But what else was it? How did I know it was the one I needed to read?

Here's what Benjamin Percy says on the back cover: "There is a special magic in the writing of Laura van den Berg, a damp-eyed sorceress who blends the mythological with the everyday, bouyant playfulness with lacerating sadness. Each sentence reads like a beautiful bruise smeared across pages as pale as the bodies that so often strip off their clothes and tangle together in these tender, elegant stories." I couldn't have said any of that better. The key words: mythological, lacerating, sadness, beautiful, bruise, pale, tangle, tender.

And because I read these stories between the bookends of The Best American Short Stories of 2011, it brought me additional insight. There were many stories in that collection I did not love. These ones? I loved. Continue to love. And when we find the things we love, shouldn't we try our damndest to to learn from them? Here is the list I scrawled in pencil on the inside of the back cover of Laura's astonishing book while reading:

What I want in a story:

mystery
lyricism
place
flora/fauna
breath
silence
things unsaid
animals/birds/bugs
things unknown
history
layers
myth
questions that sprout
political relevance
tenderness
dirt
grit
love