Today, The Common is featuring two translated short stories from the book Nella Citta Nuda by Antonio Monda. The Common in the (Eternal) City on May 21 features Monda in conversation with Larissa MacFarquhar.
The fourteen stories in Alice Munro’s latest collection, Dear Life, are terser than her stories of a decade ago. Her 2001 collection, Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage, nearly identical in length, contained only nine. Many of the new stories trace characteristically oblique paths. Munro draws opening scenes with particular details that seem intended to alert the reader to crucial moments and relationships, and then, instead of continuing those relationships chronologically, she sidesteps to previous events, or heads off in directions not initially suggested. Some stories traverse so many years that their openings, while always fitting, no longer seem the only possible entry points. Often, sections slip into others by association rather than cause and effect or chronology; in “Gravel,” a dog, mentioned in passing, turns out to be central.
This is How You Lose Her is the title of Junot Diaz’s new short story collection, though it feels most accurate to call it an exposition: this is how you lose her. And this is how you lose her. And her.
You get the picture.
As a whole, the book serves as a highly specific, painfully obvious example of how to wind up entering middle age not only single but feeling very alone, the last few decades of your life littered with romances that failed because of you. Because you couldn’t stop cheating.
Sometimes, after finishing a particularly impactful book, I experience a partial paralysis. It’s a sort of ecstatic exhaustion, I think; I’ve felt similarly after long, intense runs. If there is a window nearby, I’ll stare out it without really noticing anything in particular. If my chair is capable of rocking, I’ll do so steadily and rhythmically to the point where people sitting nearby will clear their throats in my general direction. I will occasionally mutter an expletive over and over under my breath. I don’t deny that all this is sort of dramatic. In my own defense, it doesn’t happen that often, and it requires a fairly momentous reading experience. Again, this happens usually after finishing a book. It seems significant, then, that I felt emotionally KO-ed after nearly every story in Jim Shepard’s new collection of short fiction, You Think That’s Bad. The equivalent would perhaps be getting picked up by the same girl eleven times in a row despite having your heart broken every single time. And being ready to be picked up again, if she ever comes back.