Author: Lauren Belski

2012, Crumpled Press

Filed Under: Literary, Short Stories, Short-Run

Immediately apparent once you dig into this slim little book of stories is a great sense of pacing. The sentences seem to move with a sort of poetic effluency that is enviable, especially when we’re talking about a short-run debut collection of eleven stories.

I’m a sucker for austere paragraphs like this, from “Everything to Remember”:

Now here is a speck in the multiverse–a day in the Met. Pay what you wish, but we wish you’d pay this. Mankind in a series of hieroglyphs and paint strokes. Pigeons eating the buns of hotdogs on the front stairs.

or this, from the same story:

Japanese calligraphy is like a dance of the hand. I am in love with the sky, it says. I will sing my fingers on silk until it reflects the mysteries of every blade of whatever is wild in this world. I will memorialize, memorialize. memorialize until everything to remember is sacred.

Sentence-level stuff aside, there are some stand out stories here. My favorite, “Reasons to Run,” tells of an underclassman cross-country runner who tells herself she needs to run as far from her life as she can as she takes off for a jog. After a while, her crush pulls up and offers her a ride.  They drive around and talk awkwardly before she decides to take off running again. Perhaps it doesn’t sound like much but the narration for this story is its strength, with a complexity of emotion showing through an at-first mundane exchange.

“A Postcard From the Side of the Road” is another great story, with a much more aggressive, almost manic narrator:

God I am so in love with everything, I thought. Even the concrete slabs and abandoned construction sites of New Jersey. Even Allen Ginsberg even though I haven’t got a chance, because, you know, he’s dead and he’s gay.

It’s only a couple pages, and definitely worth your time.

The rest aren’t particularly remarkable for any particular thing they do, but reading all these stories in a row results in a real sense of pleasure. The sentences roll together into a sort of cadence. Pulling that off in a collection, no matter the length, is a task many writers aren’t up to; here’s hoping Belski gets to try her chops at a novel. I’d read it.

Similar Reads: The Outlaw Album  (Woodrell), What the World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves Us (van den Berg)

[A review copy was provided.]