The other day at the library, the librarian came up to me and said, “I notice you’re a voracious reader, and I want to tell you about a new feature here at the library, called Your Lucky Day.” This is a set of contemporary best sellers, set on a special shelf. Each patron is allowed to take two books from this group out at a time.
It was thoughtful of her, and I immediately checked out and devoured Michael Connelly’s latest thriller. I do read, or at least start, many books a week. But often it feels like a vast wasteland. Which is why it is such a delight to be thoroughly seduced by an unexpected gem of a novel. Innocents and Others, by Dana Spiotta at first seems like a book of disparate rather odd stories. But slowly the stories intermingle, build on each other and change their meaning. Together they weave a meditation on how we communicate or fail to, how we experience visually, audibly. It’s a truly engaging, thoughtful, and intricate tapestry.
Here are a few excerpts, chosen pretty much at random:
This from a very overweight character: ” “Oh, it’s marvelous,’ he says. ‘An elaborate murder by immurement, by being walled in. You see? I am not exactly suffocating, but being slowly immured behind a wall built of flesh. Brick by brick, until I am obliterated. Do you know how many stories and fairy tales concern immurement? Or being buried alive? It is the most elementary of fears.’ ”
“He trusted her and she trusted him, and when she hung up the phone she felt so loved. But then all at once her life–her real life, her harsh, real life–was all around her. She looked down at her hand holding the phone, at her legs in her robe, at her notebook full of notes about her phone conversations. She squinted up at her apartment, and imagined how she looked to anyone else. She tired to tell herself it might be okay, but the gap was so big. It made her gasp.”
“Usually I did what Meadow liked and I was better for it, I think. She wanted to challenge the very idea of what films were or could be….But I was different… I didn’t want to challenge in dramatic formal ways. I watched a bad sitcom, and I thought, what would make this good? What would make this really funny?…I wanted seduction, not challenge, or maybe I wanted to smuggle challenge in a little, not subvert the whole form.”