In the 2+ years (we’re swiftly approaching 3 years… where has the time flown?!?) that Tony and I have been running this website, I think we’ve covered about one short story collection per year, if that. Try as I might, I just don’t really connect well with short stories. They so often leave me feeling bereft and unsatisfied, like there just isn’t enough there for me to really sink my teeth into. I very much want to be the kind of reader who enjoys the art of the short story, since I feel like people who genuinely like short fiction are in a reading class well above mine. Me, I tend to stick with strict fiction, occasionally meandering into narrative non-fiction… but one day when I am a wise reader, I would like to dive voraciously into volumes of short stories and maybe even poetry.
Alas, that day has not yet come, and so I still stick to pedestrian works of writing that hover somewhere around 350 pages. To me, that’s the amount of time it takes to tell a story and good. Of course, judging by Van Booy’s debut collection, The Secret Lives of People in Love, he’d strongly disagree with me. Some of the stories are only THREE pages long… approximately 1% of a regular length novel! If brevity is the soul of wit, then Van Booy must be a very witty man indeed.
I’ve been wanting to try Van Booy for a looong time now, mostly because the titles of everything he’s written are so gosh darn pretty and evoke this deep melancholy inside me. He just seems like a really romantic writer who is focused on turning words to gold and infusing his prose with soul. And here’s the thing: I really do like Van Booy’s writing. He has a wonderful way of turning a phrase and launching it at you so that it pierces you straight through the heart and paralyzes you with its beauty. There is something truly sublime about his writing; it’s the kind that makes me pause upon reaching these carefully crafted phrases and clasp a hand over my heart because that is where I feel the words reverberate
BUT. I still don’t like short stories. As much as I loved Van Booy’s luscious lexical leaps, I felt like the stories themselves did not give me enough to grasp onto. Yes, each one adheres to the idea of someone loving someone else, how love transforms us, sustains us, sometimes even separates us, in all its different forms, whether that be familial, romantic, or even platonic. But I wanted more than just six or seven pages which each person Van Booy created on the page. I am a greedy reader like that. It’s not that these little vignettes didn’t elucidate his point, I just felt like I was being offer wisps of something great… Like getting a jigsaw puzzle where half the pieces are missing. There’s enough there for you to figure out the picture and see how bits interlock, and yet it just doesn’t feel complete in the end. When I encounter a writer like Van Booy, I want to revel and luxuriate in his craft, and short stories just don’t give me enough material to do that. I don’t like shifting gears every 10 pages or so, casting away the characters I am forming a bond with only to pick up with someone new.
So, for those of you who enjoy short stories, I tip my hat to you and heartily suggest that you try Van Booy out. He really does provide some wonderful insights into the human condition and the connections we form. For me, however, I think I will see if Van Booy’s first novel, Everything Began After is a better fit for me. And I continue to hold out hope that one day I will be a better reader, one who likes that short stories only capture a fleeting moment in time and so often trail off rather than end definitively. I’m keeping my copy of this collection on hand, because I know one day I’ll be ready for it.
Thanks to TLC tours for having me along. To read others thoughts on other offerings in Van Booy’s oeuvre (including this collection), check out some of the other stops on this tour, won’t you?
Tuesday, July 12th: Books Like Breathing (Love Begins in Winter)
Wednesday, July 13th: Rundpinne (Everything Beautiful Began After)
Thursday, July 14th: The House of the Seven Tails (Everything Beautiful Began After)
Monday, July 18th: Luxury Reading (Everything Beautiful Began After)
Tuesday, July 19th: “That’s Swell!” (Everything Beautiful Began After)
Wednesday, July 20th: Book-a-rama (Everything Beautiful Began After)
Thursday, July 21st: Bibliophiliac (The Secret Lives of People in Love)
Firday, July 22nd: Chaotic Compendiums (Love Begins in Winter)
Monday, July 25th: Regular Rumination (Love Begins in Winter)
Tuesday, July 26th: Caribousmom (Everything Beautiful Began After)
Wednesday, July 27th: Books Like Breathing (The Secret Lives of People in Love)
Thursday, July 28th: Unabridged Chick (Everything Beautiful Began After)
Tuesday, August 2nd: A Bookish Way of Life (Everything Beautiful Began After)
Monday, AUgust 8th: In the Next Room (The Secret Lives of People in Love)
Tuesday, August 9th: In the Next Room (Love Begins in Winter)
Wednesday, August 10th: In the Next Room (Everything Beautiful Began After)
Wednesday, August 10th: My Reading Room (Everything Beautiful Began After)
Thursday, August 11th: Books and Movies (The Secret Lives of People in Love)
Friday, August 12th: My Two Blessings (Everything Beautiful Began After)