It’s Been Too Long

Hi, I’m baaack! The book I just finished took forever because of some life events that came up combined with the fact that it was 500+ pages and a lot of words per page. I now have to read at a rate of about 1 book per 2 days (how is it already almost November?!) if I want to complete this 100-books-in-a-year-goal. Oops.

I did finish book #67 though, and it was really great and more than worth all the time it took. I read The New Yorker Stories by Ann Beattie. This is a collection of short stories that had been previously published on their own in The New Yorker over a period of about 30 years.

This collection, more than any other book I can think of, put the passing of time into such beautiful perspective. These stories started coming out in 1974, and the final one was published in 2006. None of the stories are related to each other, though the themes of each of the stories tended to relate to family, love, marriage, trust, happiness, and sadness.

More than anything, the stories in this collection were all about life. They tended to be quiet, not a lot of action really occurred. A lot of the stories introduced the reader to several characters right away, discussing their relationship to each other, before moving on to the event of the story, whether that be a party or a funeral.

Some happened around the holidays, and some stories gave no sense of the time of year it was taking place. Some were set in New York, the majority set on the East Coast, but some stories were about characters from or living in California or the Midwest.

In a way, I’m glad I was able to read them almost a decade after they were completed, all compiled in a book like they are; I could also imagine that waiting for the next one in whichever issue of The New Yorker it would appear in would have been a really rewarding experience, too.

Like I mentioned, the stories are all mostly quiet. There’s nothing in the action of any of the stories that makes them gripping. What did keep me very interested and invested were the characters and their reactions to the less-than-exciting things that were happening around them, and which had become their everyday life.

It made me think: if I were to write a book about my life so far, there would be maybe 1 or 2 cool things that I could include, things that might get a complete stranger excited to be reading about it. The most important chapters to me, though, would be the ones about a random night spent at Perkins with people I will always love, or an unsettling and uncharacterizable (not a word) moment on the eve of my brother’s leaving for college.

I loved this book because it was a collection of those little moments in life that can at once be so important and so inconsequential. I think those are the moments that most of us live for, whether we acknowledge it or not. Beattie captures those moments so beautifully, and this collection of some of those moments was wonderful.

Everyone should read it, it was absolutely beautiful. I can’t dwell on it any longer because I’ve got mad reading to do before 2016 is upon us. ◊

You discovered people’s secret stashes when they died. The little, unknown things filled them in, as if they hadn’t had quite enough dimension in life. Or perhaps those discoveries took them farther away, dried-out cigarettes and hidden half-pints reminding you that everyone was little known.”

– page 491, from “Coping Stones” (September 12, 2005)

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