I genre binge. Historical fiction, short stories, memoirs, chick-lit, YA, and literary fiction are on my obsessive genre cycle. Lately I’ve taken a liking to short stories, I love how much can be said in so few pages. I love knowing only a fraction of the character’s life, probably a very significant section of their life. I love that when I’m busy I can read one story at a time, as slowly as I need to. I love short story collections because the stories share an overarching theme, but have many different settings, characters, and sometimes even genres. I’m still plugging away at Wallflowers by Eliza Robertson. I read the entire collection once and am reading over the stories that I loved, as well as, the stories that went right over my head.
Eliza Robertston has created a cast of unique and wholly engaging characters. Here are the swindlers and innocents, unlikely heroes and gritty survivors; they teach us how to trap hummingbirds, relinquish dreams gracefully, and feed raccoons without getting bitten. (From back cover flap)
Eliza Robertson has the kind of impressive writer’s resume that I can only dream to have. She won the 2013 Commonwealth Short Story Prize, has an M.A. in prose fiction from the University of East Anglia (where she received the Man Booker Scholarship and the Curtis Brown Prize for best writer), she was a finalist for the CBC Short Story Prize, and was shortlisted for the 2013 Journey Prize. Intimidating right? I haven’t the time to gush about all of the praise her collection is getting but you should probably Google it.
After reading several reviews and articles about the collection, I knew that it would be very literary, eloquent, and tough. Robertson’s short stories demand focus and attention. They are deep, highly metaphorical (almost poetic) stories that capture your attention and keep it. Once you get over how intense and wonderful the writing is and really sink into her words, you get a kind of reader’s high. The high you can only get from well-written, visually stunning words. Where you’re learning new things about the world, understanding basic human conditions in a new light, and delving whole-heartedly into each and every story. I found it to be a vast and sometimes challenging read, but one that I would recommend to any lover of fiction.
Here two of my favourite lines from my favourite short stories in this collection. I hope it gives you a taste of the wonderful visual writing and character profiles that Robertson creates. They’re beautiful, even out of the context of the story.
“PS — I think she was the most beautiful woman in the world. I think this is what redeemed her. She lived by a wild, unreasoned, breathless devotion to beauty. And not just her own.”
“The living room bulb was dull, but light filtered in from the window, from the street lamps and rolling headlights, which grazed their shoulders toward the wall. Neither of them spoke. She wanted to stay here, in the hinge of this moment, before it tipped into the future or back into the past.” Electric Lady Rag (164)
Do you know of any awesome short story collections I should pick up?
Let me know!