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Friday, October 11, 2013

Long and Short of It

Short stories have been my preferred reading material lately. There is something poetic and impressive about the short story. I really do believe that it takes much more talent to write a great short story than it takes to write a novel... even a great novel. That being said, short stories are a hard sell among our customers. People seem to prefer a big, old novel they can sink their teeth into, but they're ignoring the beauty and genius to be found in a well-written collection of stories.

I'm hoping that Alice Munro's Nobel win will generate some much needed hype for the oft forgotten short story. While every bookstore in the country waits to get Alice Munro's books back in stock, try this amazing collection that I just read and fell in love with.

Amor and Psycho by Carolyn Cooke

From the author of Daughters of the Revolution and The Bostons (winner of the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for fiction) come eleven stories about sex and death, violence and desire, love and madness, set in a vast American landscape that ranges from the largest private residence in Manhattan to the lush rain forests and marijuana farms of Northern California.

In “Francis Bacon,” an aspiring writer learns essential lessons from an aging pornographer. In “The Snake,” a restless Jungian analyst sheds one existence after another. In “The Boundary,” a muralist falls in love with a troubled boy from the rez. In the surreal “She Bites,” a man builds an architecturally distinguished doghouse as his wife slowly transforms. And in the transcendent, three-part title story, two best friends face their strange fates, linked by a determination to wrest meaning and coherence from lives spiraling out of control.

At once philosophical and compulsively readable, Amor and Psycho dives into our darkest spaces, confronting the absurdity, poetry and brutality of human existence.

Here's my review:

Once in awhile you come across an author who shifts your belief about what is possible; about what the written word can do and what a short ten page story can make you feel. Carolyn Cooke is one of those authors. And Amor and Psycho will blow your mind. 

It's dark and sexy. A little violent, and surprisingly funny at some of the most inappropriate moments. Like life, I guess. 

She isn't timid in her exploration of the terrifying things we face everyday. Illness, poverty, misogyny, isolation; it's all in here. But minus the bleakness you would expect. Cooke's genius is her ability to connect you to characters and situations far afield from your own life and infuse your experience with compassion, solidarity, and humor. Add her acrobatic, razor sharp writing and BLAMO! mind blown.

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