Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Books Received: Alone with You by Marisa Silver

With a beautiful Edward Hopper cover, this book of short fiction would have cried out to me if I didn’t already know that Marisa Silver’s short stories are exemplary. Three of these pieces first appeared in The New Yorker, where Silver made her debut as a fiction writer several years ago…but instead of being jealous, be admiring.

Here’s the opening of “The Visitor”:

“The new boy was three-quarters gone. Both legs from below the knee and the left arm at the shoulder. Candy spent her lunch hour lying on the lawn outside the VA hospital, sending nicotine clouds into the cloudless sky, wondering whether it would be better to have one leg and no arms—or, if you were lucky enough to have an arm and a leg left, whether it would be better to have them on opposite sides for balance. In her six months as a nurse’s aide, she had become thoughtful about the subtle hierarchy of human disintegration. Blind versus deaf—that was a no-brainer, no brain being perhaps the one wound in her personal calculus that could not be traded in for something worse.

“It was sad. Of course it was sad. But she didn’t feel sad. Sad was what people said they were in the face of tragedies as serious as suicide bombings or as minor as a lost earring. It was a word that people used to tidy up and put the problem out of sight.”

“Leap” was another favorite of mine, in which a remembered, potential “stranger-danger” moment, heart surgery, an unfaithful husband, and an overweight dog jumping off an embankment combine evocatively to show the narrator that life is dangerous and unpredictable and, of course, filled with “radiant possibility.”

Her prose is beautiful and smart and will take your breath away.


Marisa Silver guest-blogged last week on The Elegant Variation (start here and click “previous” to get additional posts) about the similarities of advice she would offer to the lovelorn and to writers:

For the lovelorn:

“3. You will never know your partner.

“4. You should never know your partner.”

For the writers:

“3. People will ask you what your work means and you will try to explain it to them, but you won't really be able to explain it even if it sounds like you are saying something intelligent.

“4. You should not be able to explain it. There should always be something ineffable and mysterious about it, even for you. If you've got all the answers, your work will not soar.”

Here’s more information about Alone with You, including a book trailer.

Here’s more information about Marisa Silver (she’s also the author of the novels No Direction Home and The God of War and the short story collection Babes in Paradise).

Here’s another excerpt from the short story “Temporary.”

Disclosure per the FTC overlords: I received a free copy of this book from Simon and Schuster, though I would have bought it for myself, though I must confess that I would have waited for the paperback edition.


DC-area author Leslie Pietrzyk explores the creative process and all things literary.