Books 1/12/06

I finished The Best American NonRequired Reading 2005. I don’t read a lot of short story anthologies- actually that’s a lie. It would be more correct to say that I don’t read many non-themed anthologies. Therefore, when I read one that is simply a collection of various short stories, I find myself slightly adrift and unsettled, with no idea of where the stories are going to take me. There usually ends up being at least one that I can’t make it through, and this time was no different. It’s the risk you run with anthologies- the odds that you’ll run across a writer you don’t “feel” is higher.

Anyway. Back to the book at hand and away from the generalities. On the whole the stories were strong, and enjoyable. There was some great imagery, and it made me wish again that I was better at the short story form.

The absolute standout was Tiger Mending by Aimee Bender. Bender has a surreal quality to her stories, and this one was no different, as a quiet young woman is recruited to join a group of women who mend the ever increasing number of tigers who are crawling out of the jungle with their stripes peeling off. The girl’s sister joins her on the trip, and it is their relationship which forms the core of the story. The story has a serenity that progressively becomes oppressive, and it left me unsettled as I pondered the meaning of the metaphor that moves the girls toward their conclusion. I think I understand it, but I keep feeling that I’m missing something. But that’s in a good way, not in a frustrated, “you didn’t make yourself clear enough” kind of way.

Other standouts included Free Burgers for Life by Ryan Boudinot, and Hell-Heaven by Jhumpa Lahiri.

Oh, I should note that I didn’t abandon Writing Down the Bones, the book I talked about at the very first of the year. It got left at my sister’s house by accident, and I haven’t had the chance to get it back yet. So I will be finishing it as soon as I get it back in my hands. Especially because it’s driving me crazy that I can’t remember where I read a certain idea about metaphors (and ants and elephants), and I think it might have been in there.

Current total: 2
Just Finished: The Best American Nonrequired Reading ed. by Dave Eggers
Next Up: Girl, 15, Charming, but Insane by Sue Limb

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