Thursday, December 18, 2014

Thunderstruck (and a life update): "I knew something was ending, and I was grateful, and I missed it."

Before I get into the book we're all gathered here to discuss, I just want to say, HEY, HEY GUYS, GUYS, I WORK AT DISNEY PUBLISHING NOW, GUYS.

It's been a crazy first two weeks, and I'm going to bed tonight with visions of Sith Lords dancing in my head. I love my coworkers, piles of cookies and chocolate keep appearing on my desk, I literally read books about super heroes and Jedi between the hours of 9 and 5 every day, and I sometimes eat my lunch next to a life-sized sculpture of Sully from Monsters Inc. My life does not suck.

But I haven't quite figured out where everything else goes now that I can't stay up until 3 a.m. catching up on my reading or check in with some of you guys on gchat during the workday or hang out at home with my husband until noon or stop what I'm doing at any given moment of the day to rub my face all over my dogs' faces.

Change, even the good kind, is hard.

But the main things I want you to take away from this are that my job is awesome and I've eaten my weight in cookies today.

And now we can move on to the business at hand.

When it's been a while since you finished a particular book, but you loved it so much that you really can't let it pass through your life without comment, there's nothing for it but to bust out some quotes.
The soul is liquid, and slow to evaporate. The body's a bucket and liable to slosh. Grieving, haunted, heartbroken, obsessed: your friends will tell you to cheer up. What they really mean is dry up. But it isn't a matter of will. Only time and light will do the job.
A round-jawed teenager sat on a leather settee with a handheld video game, frowning at the screen like a Roman emperor impatient with the finickiness of his lions.
Paris on paper always looked like a box of peanut brittle that had been dropped onto the ground, the Seine the unraveled ribbon that had held it together. 
The way Elizabeth McCracken describes everyday things is beyond me. It took me a solid month to get through this book of only nine stories, and it's because every sentence describes a new way of looking at something—sometimes the mundane and sometimes the incomprehensible. Each story demands to be lingered over; no skimming allowed.

Just really get in there and spend some time with it.

My favorite, "Juliet," falls almost exactly in the middle of the collection, and I think it's a good example of the cohesive tone of these stories—a quirky snapshot of everyday life that also addresses how humans cope with loss.

The story opens with the plight of a beleaguered bunny named Kaspar who lives in the children's room at a public library, and then it goes into the interactions of the librarians and patrons, and one patron in particular, Juliet. But it morphs into an examination of tragedy, and how the effects of sudden loss (of any loss, really) ripple out and out and out, reaching more people in more varied ways than we might imagine possible.

I first fell in love with McCracken's writing (and her, also...a little bit) when I read her afterword to the Signet Classic 150th anniversary edition of Bleak House. I read afterwords because I'm a completist, but they rarely make me want to go straight back to the beginning of the book for a reread. What I did do was go straight to Twitter to tell her how lovely her words were, and within minutes she replied to express her gratitude for my gratitude. We live in a magical time, friends.

Every day brings us a little closer to Internet tacos.
So what've we learned here today? You should read Elizabeth McCracken's writing at every opportunity. And you can still be hungry for tacos after eating many, many cookies.