One. I recently started a book of short stories that I’m liking: Throw Like a Girl by Jean Thompson. I’m only halfway through, but this is the rare collection that makes me want to stay up late and “read one more.” (Typically, I’m more of a “dip in” reader of story collections, reading one or two, here and there, over a period of time.) Thus far, these stories feature a lot of trapped women or women who have made bad choices in men, but I hesitate to say that because the stories are so much more than that, and the prose is so precise as to leave me breathless.
Here’s the opening to the first story, “The Brat”; when I read this, I had to keep going:
“She hated her mother and she hated her father too, at least when he was around to be hated. She hated school and all the snotty girls who put their heads together giggling and talking big and showing off their nail polish and their new shoes and new cell phones and whatever else they bought bought bought. She hated her brother but that was easy, it was automatic that they hate each other. She was twelve years old and she wasn’t pretty or smart or nicey-nice and she wished everyone she knew would just drop dead. Then she could go somewhere, a city or maybe the ocean, a place like on television where everybody knew everybody else and things were always happening.”
I picked up this book after I read a review of it in the New York Times Book Review (registration required for access). What I don’t understand is why so few of the stories seem to have been previously published in journals or magazines. I hope that was the author’s choice and not because editors passed these up!
Two. In my class at Johns Hopkins, we read Mark Richard’s story “Strays,” and I was reminded of how powerful that story is, and how perfectly, evocatively structured. I love the first paragraph:
“At night, stray dogs come up underneath our house to lick our leaking pipes. Beneath my brother and my’s room we hear them coughing and growling, scratching their ratted backs against the boards beneath our beds. We lie awake, listening, my brother thinking of names to name the one he is setting out to catch. Salute and Topboy are high on his list.”
The story was in Best American Short Stories and is found in Richard’s collection, The Ice at the Bottom of the World.
Three. The Washington Post Magazine does an annual summer reading issue, and I admired this essay by Rick Moody about baseball and addiction. (Registration required to access the piece.)
Four. This article (registration required) in the Washington Post about how children (still!) use their imaginations charmed me and brought back memories of the plays we put on in our backyard. Being the bossiest, I was often both director and star.