is reading time for many of us. I used to spend my midday break with
my current print/eBook or my audiobook, but lately I've gotten more
pleasure out of shorter pieces.
Each day I pick a story or an article I can start and finish before I turn back to my computer for an afternoon of editing. I've been sampling all kinds of works: short stories, essays, articles, and poems.
Here's a look at three stories I read this week. Can't wait to read more in each collection.
It's no secret that I'm a huge fan of Per Petterson's novels. Before his longer works made him famous, Petterson published ten stories collected in Ashes in My Mouth, Sand in My Shoes (Graywolf Press) about a young boy living outside of Olso in the early 1960s. These elegantly written shorts view big issues from the perspective of a child's mind. "Like a Tiger in a Cage": After seeing a photograph of his mother from before he was born, Arvid Jansen is startled by the changes in her brought about from the passing of time. He doesn't want to get older, thinking six and a half years are enough, but he can't figure out how to stop time . . . or can he?
He held his hands to his face as if to keep his skin in place and for many nights he lay clutching his body, feeling time sweeping through it like little explosions. . . . But nothing helped, and with every pop he felt himself getting older. (p. 44)Kevin Barry's Dark Lies the Island is another winning collection from Graywolf Press. Focusing on what the Minneapolis Star Tribune called "marginalized figures," Barry explores his native Ireland with a brilliant combination of humor and darkness. "The Girls and the Dogs": Our unnamed narrator, on the run after selling a bad batch of crack, ends up at the home of an old acquaintance. Evan has two sets of children from two sisters, and all are living under the same roof. Things start off well enough, but when Evan makes our hero an offer he shouldn't have refused, our man finds himself in a tight spot.
Yes it started like that—the trouble—it started as a soft kind of coaxing. Sly comments from Suze and sly comments from Evan the Head. And I got worried when the winter stretched on, the weeks threw down their great length, the weeks were made of sleet and wind, and it became February—a hard month. (p. 138)Joanna Luloff's The Beach at Galle Road (Algonquin Books) is a collection of interlinked stories that bring the effects of the twenty-five-year-long Sri Lankan civil war down to the individual level. Luloff, a native American, spent almost two years in Sri Lanka as a Peace Corps worker, giving her a firsthand view of the country at war. "Ghost Neighbors": After the war has taken her family and dashed her dreams of becoming a teacher, Nilanthi returns to her childhood home, where people from her past offer unwelcome and questionable help. Overwhelmed with how life must be now, Nilanthi becomes silent, talking only to her ghosts. One of them gives her a way out; will Nilanthi listen?
The lye is still under the bucket by the well. Drink some and we can dance here together in circles until we are dizzy with spinning. (p. 232)