I know short stories aren’t everyone’s thang. But really, it only makes sense that short stories should be as popular as Kim Kardashian’s baby bump. Because why read a whole novel when you can read a little pearl of a story all tied up in a few pages? That’s my hope anyway for the sake of story collections so that fine books like this one will continue to get published.
I’m going to mirror what the NY Times said of Jamie Quatro’s book I Want to Show You More, and tell you that it investigates obsessions: infidelity, running, cancer and Christianity. What it doesn’t do in its stories is belittle the control any of them can have. Infidelity has been explored by many great writers, like John Cheever and John Updike to name a couple of my favorites. But the topic doesn’t wear itself out, and that’s because it’s something I believe most people realistically think about. Being in a marriage to one person for the rest of your life is a huge commitment. Let’s not pretend otherwise.
Quatro puts what many people do, and what others think about but do not do, on paper. Bravely, if I might add. Her protagonist in several of the stories has had or is having an affair with a man she hasn’t met. Meaning that the affair is more emotional than physical. She explores what this does to the woman, how it haunts her, and how the obsession takes over her life.
The obsession of running is explored in a memorable story about a marathon runner, “Ladies and Gentlemen of the Pavement,” which read to me as a timely piece in the wake of the Boston marathon. But in this fantastical story, the runners must carry statues while running. Some statues are large and heavy, others are small and delicate. They can’t be put down or the runners will be disqualified from ever running another race. As the protagonist is finishing her first marathon (this part was a little too close to home), it turns a bit violent. But the story also ends in a beautiful way:
“Spectators probably think my race is over.
But I’m pressing on to the finish. I’m surging past the crowd.”
Then there’s the poignant story “Sinkhole,” about an adolescent boy who is a fantastic runner with an imagined heart problem, a spot in the center of his chest which he refers to as his sinkhole. It’s finally cured when he gets the girl he loves.
In a story called “Holy Ground,” Quatro talks about religion, as she does in several of the stories. Or church, rather, because religion is seen through the lens of the church. Anyway, I really just want to share one of her stark, pretty lines, since that’s what makes a story enjoyable for me. In this part of the story, a woman is leaving for what she tells her family is a long run that could last days, even weeks. “I set the alarm, lock the back door, and head straight for God.”
Oh no, I haven’t told you about the Eva Block story. Well, instead of telling you about every memorable story in the collection, I’ll let you read them yourself. Have you read any other good books that explore obsessions? Let me know what you’re reading now.
Gigglers: I’m not going to seek out the newest hardcovers and tell you whether or not to buy them. And while not the Sunday Review, this Sunday blog will explore my brilliant and fascinating thoughts about books. Please use the comments section to share your own thoughts on this book, or whatever you’re reading.
Image from Grove Atlantic