Short flight, free descent

Little Calf Mountain
Mussed hair, dogs, ripped jeans on Little Calf Mountain.

Upon reading the lyrics of Joanna Newsom’s new album, Divers, one is filled with an acute sense of despair and wonder. How is it fair that one woman should possess all of these gifts?

I want so badly to write this thing, this thing I have been mulling over for about a year, but I realized that I cannot write a good narrative. I don’t know how to write dialogue; I can only tell. I am afraid of mimicking the way people speak. In the same moment, I realize I am also afraid of cats, in a fundamental way. I am afraid of cats, like I am afraid of writing dialogue, because I do not understand how they work.

(I should not be blogging. I have had wine.)

I love how much my husband loves women artists. It is a rare thing in a man, I think.

I don’t think I could ever have a cat, even though I admire them from afar. For one, I abhor keeping any pet that shits in your house. For another, I mistrust an animal that has no sense of mercy.

At a recent dinner, in front of a table full of super-intelligent, beautiful, agnostic women, I admitted that I went to church on a regular basis. I felt shy and exposed, and felt like I should have stopped myself, but I was received kindly and graciously, without apparent judgment. Some of them seemed curious about this admission. We talked freely about religion and what we liked about it, what we felt it could add to our lives.

“Fiction is art and art is the triumph over chaos (no less) and we can accomplish this only by the most vigilant exercise of choice, but in a world that changes more swiftly than we can perceive there is always the danger that our powers of selection will be mistaken and that the vision we serve will come to nothing. We admire decency and we despise death but even the mountains seem to shift in the space of a night and perhaps the exhibitionist at the corner of Chestnut and Elm streets is more significant than the lovely woman with a bar of sunlight in her hair, putting a fresh piece of cuttlebone in the nightingale’s cage. Just let me give you one example of chaos and if you disbelieve me look honestly into your own past and see if you can’t find a comparable experience…”

— “The Death of Justina,” John Cheever

Top 10 books I read in 2012: The Wonders of the Invisible World (#9)

The Wonders Of The Invisible World

The Wonders of the Invisible World

Gollancz, 1999; 257 pages.

I tend to say that I don’t really enjoy reading short-story collections, but I don’t think this is necessarily true, so don’t believe me if I ever tell you that.

Take, for example, David Gates and his 1999 collection, The Wonders of the Invisible World. This taut, angry, perfect set of stories just blew me away. Gates’ characters are raw, honest, and utterly believable. They are intimidated by love. They are undone by bad habits. They forgive and hurt each other.

One of the outstanding strengths of this story collection is Gates’ remarkable ability to replicate dialogue. It has been a long time since I have read such real, flawless, effortless conversations between fictional people. Even if the stories don’t interest you, this feature alone should keep you riveted to these stories.

I want to keep calling this collection “pitch-perfect American fiction.” And so that’s what I’ll leave you with. Read it; you won’t be disappointed.