Monday, August 03, 2009

David Sedaris speaks, I listen (laughing): Stories can save you

On my recent road trip to Sonoma, I learned that books on CD + passenger's seat + long drive up the 5 = Rebecca passing out after the first few sentences.

However, when David Sedaris was telling the story, I was wide awake. It's hard to fall asleep mid-laugh. Sedaris compiled some of his favorite short stories and authors in Children Playing Before a Statue of Hercules. His introduction to the anthology alone is worth the trip to the library or bookstore, with the added anticipation of stories from writers including Flannery O'Connor, Lorrie Moore, Tobias Wolff, Jhumpa Lahiri, Dorothy Parker, and Alice Munro.

Talking about his love for the short story, Sedaris kept me alert and introduced me to the magic of Alice Munro, whom I'd never read.

"Once, before leaving on vacation, I copied an entire page from an Alice Munro story and left it in my typewriter, hoping a burglar might come upon it and mistake her words for my own. That an intruder would spend his valuable time reading, that he might be impressed by the description of a crooked face, was something I did not question, as I believed, and still do, that stories can save you."

It's funny because it's true. And the next day I purchased Selected Stories by Alice Munro and was not disappointed. Her characters are unique, colorful, real and memorable. And in case a burglar should interrupt my blogging, here are two passages I'd like him to read to give a glimpse.

"The force did weaken with distance. It was as simple as that, though the distance, she thought afterward, would have to be covered by car, or by bus, or bicycle; you couldn't get the same results by flying. In a prairie town within sight of the Cypress Hills she recognized the change. She had driven all night until the sun came up behind her and she felt calm and clearheaded, as you do at such times. She sat at the counter looking at the usual things there are behind cafe counters -- the coffeepots and the bright, probably stale pieces of lemon and raspberry pie, the thick glass dishes they put ice cream or Jell-O in. It was those dishes that told her of her changed state. She could not have said she found them shapely, or eloquent, without misstating the case. All she could have said was that she saw them in a way that wouldn't be possible to a person in any stage of love.

..."On the Hope-Princeton highway she got out of the car and stood in the cool rain of the coastal mountains. She felt relatively safe, and exhausted, and sane, though she knew she had left some people behind who would not agree with that."
~ from "Simon's Luck"

" 'Life would be grand if it weren't for the people,' says Valerie moodily. 'That sounds like a quotation, but I think I just made it up. The problem is that Kimberly is a Christian. Well, that's fine. We could use a Christian or two. For that matter, I am not an un-Christian. But she is very noticeably a Christian, don't you think? I'm amazed how mean she makes me feel.' "
~ from "Labor Day Dinner"

Time to curl up with another story. What are some of your favorite short story collections?

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