Passionately detached fiction

  • by <a href="" target="_blank">Richard</a>, Everett Public Library staff
  • Tuesday, September 4, 2012 11:48am
  • LifeA Reading Life

Why we like the stories that we do is a mysterious thing. Here at the library, we try to recommend books by creating categories for types of readers (those who like a particular genre, setting, subject, audience, etc.) and matching the book to the person. This works to a certain degree, but if you think about your own reading tastes it becomes clear that simple labels just aren’t sufficient.

I know that I am a mass of contradictions when it comes to what I like to read. Over the years I’ve learned that I veer from detached to passionate when it comes to the types of fiction I enjoy. As a case in point, consider two very different books that I just finished reading.

We’re Flying by Peter Stamm is a deceptively simple collection of short stories. Each tale illuminates a set of circumstances (sometimes mundane, other times extraordinary) in clear and direct language. The characters vary in age and location but all seem perplexed by existence and the choices they have to make.

“A Foreign Body” is the tale of an extreme cave explorer who has lost his nerve. “In the Forest” follows Anja who chose to live in the woods during her adolescence. “Seven Sleepers” is the touching story of an organic farmer finally finding a connection during an outdoor concert. Throughout the work, the narrator refuses to pass judgment, maintaining a distance that makes the stories all the more poignant and complex.

Distance is the last thing you will get from the narrator of Flea Circus: A Brief Bestiary of Grief by Mandy Keifetz. This is a very intense (and gripping) narrative of one woman’s not very successful attempt to maintain her equilibrium. The story moves back and forth in time but is grounded in a distinct event that is returned to again and again: the death of the narrator’s lover.

The novel takes the form of a journal, of sorts, with alphabetical headings. The author’s use of language is rich, witty and, if you give into the flow of it, it becomes quite captivating:

Clearly, as I say, I am not thinking clearly. This much is clear: my grief had deranged me. Split me into two camps. Inside me contend a keen like a sonic boom, and a survival instinct, a self-correcting keel. A keen and a keel.

In addition the novel has a distinct sense of place, effectively capturing an urban landscape of crowded tenements, colorful street life and a seedy bar in Red Hook.

So clearly I lack consistency when it comes to my taste in storytelling. If you share my Jekyll and Hyde tendencies when it comes to fiction, rejoice in the fact that we have a whole library full of books to satisfy our conflicting urges.

Be sure to visit A Reading Life for more reviews and news of all things happening at the Everett Public Library

More in Life

Leanne Smiciklas, the friendly lady who served customers of her husband’s Old School Barbeque from a schoolbus parked in front of the Reptile Zoo east of Monroe, has died at 64. (Dan Bates / Herald file)
Without her, beloved BBQ hotspot in Monroe can’t go on

Leanne Smiciklas, who ran the now-closed Old School BBQ along Highway 2 with her husband, died.

Taylor Johnston waters a philodendron at her home on Friday, Dec. 8, 2017 in Everett, Wa. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Three guidebooks to help the novice houseplant gardener

Indoor plants are popular again — and we’re not talking about your grandma’s African violets.

Plant of Merit: Fatsia japonica ‘Variegata,’ Japanese aralia

What: Fatsia japonica ‘Variegata,’ or variegated Japanese aralia, is an evergreen shrub… Continue reading

Don’t call Justice Brewing owner a gypsy — he’s just ‘homeless’

After an unexpected hardship, owner Nate McLaughlin won’t be moving his brewery to downtown Everett.

A mild December makes for easy winter cleanup in the garden

If you haven’t finished your November gardening tasks, here’s a list of chores to do this month.

Beer of the Week: Justice Brewing’s Outlook F——d, Northeast IPA

The brewery’s new beer with a vulgar name is a tropical IPA that riffs off its Outlook Hazy recipe.

Yummy Banh Mi offers cheap sandwiches with rich flavor

Classic Vietnamese meets fast food at new restaurant in downtown Everett.

Could a law to bring down the mob be used in Weinstein case?

The federal anti-racketeering law was drafted to bring down organized crime but it isn’t limited to it.

This author is throwing a virtual party for book lovers

Jennifer Bardsley is hosting a Facebook get-together for young-adult book authors and readers.

Most Read