So I’ve lately been afraid that I’m in a rut, fiction-wise. I always fret about this as I pick up the latest urban-fiction-written-by 30-something-Canadian-girl, but my latest flare-up started because I got into this thing with a clerk at Book City. I was buying a book of short stories (The Dolphins of Sainte-Marie by Sandra Sabatini, which is the best book of the year and I simply cannot rave about it enough), and he started to take me around the store to “show” me some of his favorite short story collections and I was like, no, no, no thanks, tried it. He started with Alice Munro and Carol Shields and I was like, first of all, do you think I was born yesterday? and second of all, are you kidding me? I was recently forced to read an Alice Munro story and it was about a middle age woman dying of cancer in a small town. She went to visit someone who lived on a farm (why exactly is a little fuzzy) and she got lost in the rows of corn and it was like, a metaphor for her illness and her life. Later, trying to be open-minded, I started Friendship, Courtship, Hateship, or whatever it is called (and you have to admit it’s a brilliant title, even though I can’t get it right) and the opening scene was this spunky early-century woman at the train station inquiring about shipping furniture to Regina or something. And she has to give her address and it’s noted that the houses in town had only recently been numbered. And what is it with Carol Shields and this whole “dropped threads” my-sewing-project-is-doomed metapor for womanhood? Thanks but no thanks.
So I try to say to the guy, I like stories by Barbara Gowdy (because that’s respectable, right?). I also like stories by Russell Smith and this great recent collection by Heather Birrell, who no one has ever heard of. The god of short stories is T.M. McNally. You want to weep from the trueness and perfection of it all when you read him, and, and…
He’s like, who?
This problem also extends to novels. And sometimes I think it’s not really a problem because usually I think, you like what you like, right? The world is too full of too many good books to waste time with anything you don’t love, right? So it’s totally okay to discard out of hands books about: 1) boys, 2) other centuries, 3) economic hardship, and 4) war.
I don’t know Chicklets. In school they made me read things like The Grapes of Wrath and A Tale of Two Cities, and I loved them. No one is making me do that now. My beef is basically that you have to wade through so many ailing women in corn fields to get to the out-of-your-comfort-zone good stuff that it’s tempting to just not ever branch out.
I was a little alarmed this evening when I was talking to Mr. Mock about What I Was Reading These Days and I pulled out of my bag two books I currently have on the go. They were called:
1. The Girls
2. Dead Girls
In a rut much?