#123 ~ A Heart In Port

November 18, 2008 at 8:00 am | Posted in Books, LIfe, Reading | 3 Comments
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cover-of-a-heart-in-port
A Heart In Port by Emily Givner

Emily Givner, the gifted Canadian author of A Heart in Port, died in 2004 of an allergic reaction.  She was but 38 years old at the time.  The stories in this book reflect the themes of her life and speak of a generational experience that we shared.  This collection of short stories left me wondering what might have been had she had more time to write.

My favorite story in this collection is “Canadian Mint.”  This story tells of two drug enhanced Generation X slackers who find themselves building a tall tower of pennies in an apartment out of boredom.  They are so enamored with what they’ve done that they decide to build penny towers on the street to make extra money.  Although it never fit my personality to live like these characters, I can close my eyes and picture myself walking down the sidewalk finding any number of my college friends doing the exact same things, having the same types of arguments.  Reading this short story was like listening to an old friend tell a familiar story.  It puts me back to a place and time in my life like “Hey, Jealousy” by the Gin Blossoms or “Interstate Love Song” by the Stone Temple Pilots.

I find it difficult to review short stories.  I’ve recently received some wonderful advice on how to read shorter fiction, but I don’t feel as if I can really do them justice.  Some of the writing was not as polished as others and this is perhaps a consequence of publishing some of the posthumously.  She simply may not have been finished with them.  Still, the book is held together by the common threads of music, allergies, and interactions with older men.  A Heart in Port is an interesting collection and the cover art is very indicative of its mood.  It will never be known what Emily Givner would have done with her talent, but Canada still has this diamond in the rough.

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To buy this collection, click here.

#101 ~ Months and Seasons

September 13, 2008 at 12:51 pm | Posted in Books, LIfe, Reading | 1 Comment
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Months and Seasons by Christopher Meeks

Christopher Meeks sent me a copy of his latest collection, Months and Seasons a while back and I’ve been eager to read it.  I love the cover and the descriptions of his stories sounded interesting.  After finishing a 600+ page novel, a collection of short stories for my next read seemed like a wonderful change of pace.  For the first few stories, it was.  In the end, however, I was happy to get back to the world of novels.

I am not someone who frequently reads short stories.  It isn’t that I don’t like short stories, but novels simply are my preference.  While I enjoyed Meeks’ characters, most especially Frank in “The Holes in My Door,” I found myself wanting more.  When I finish reading a good novel, it feels like a complete experience.  If I don’t, it’s a sign that the book didn’t work for me.  With short stories, this is intensified for me.  This isn’t necessarily about the quality of the story, but about the structure of the genre.  During my reading of Months and Seasons, I kept having questions: What followed the night of the Halloween party in “Dracula Slinks into the Night?”  How did Albert’s life change after “The Sun is a Billiard Ball” finished?  Unlike, “Did Rhett and Scarlett get back together?”, they weren’t satisfying questions for me.  I don’t need (and usually don’t want) to have everything neatly tied up in a bow at the end of a novel.  I just need enough to go on to make my own conclusions.  I typically don’t find this in short stories.

Christopher Meeks is a talented writer.  If he writes a novel, I will be one of the first in line to read it.  Please don’t let my issues with short stories keep you away from this book.  I would highly recommend his short stories to those who enjoy reading short stories.

Several of my favorite bloggers have read and reviewed this collection and really enjoyed it.  Check out what’s been said about it on The Book Lady’s Blog, Devourer of Books, and Rebecca’s Reads for reviews written by readers who appreciate short stories.

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To buy this collection of short stories, click here.

#97 ~ No One Belongs Here More Than You

August 30, 2008 at 3:12 pm | Posted in Books, Reading | 4 Comments
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No One Belongs Here More Than You: Stories by Miranda July

When I first started exploring other book blogs and reading related e-newsletters, Miranda July’s collection of short stories kept popping up. The author and her collection of short stories sounded intriguing to me, but for whatever reason it wasn’t something I thought about when I went to order books. I joined Audible this spring and I was delighted to see that they offered this book and that it was read by the author. Since she’s a performance artist, I knew that this was the way to go with this book and used a credit on it immediately. In the end, I was happy that I picked this up during my introductory period and didn’t pay full price for the credit I spent on it.

No One Belongs Here More Than You is a collection of stories, in most cases not much more than character sketches, about people who are socially awkward and who just don’t seem to fit in with their surroundings. They are desperate and candidates for therapy at best and institutionalization at worst. There were moments where I really loved her writing, but I never once cared about a single narrator. If anything, I was concerned for the safety of those who were unwittingly apart of their lives.

After about the fifth story they all started to blend together and I lost interest. Miranda July’s reading didn’t help. While I cannot say that she read in a monotone voice, there is something about its quality and the lack of emotion that added to my disinterest. While listening, I often wonder if I would have enjoyed this more if it were read by another person or if I read it myself. It’s possible that those factors may have elevated my opinion somewhat, but I doubt it would have been enough for me to recommend it as a whole. Quite frankly, this territory is better covered by Patrick McGrath.

Here is a sample reading by Miranda July provided on her website. If you are interested, the stories “The Man on the Stairs” and “Birthmark” stood out to me. Rent the book from the library and read those stories. Otherwise, I’d just pass.

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To buy this book, click here.

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