I’m in the midst of a move, which has reminded me how much I hate moving, the constant sense of inventory, the where-should-this-go, the box that contains socks and a spatula and that really important piece of paper that I won’t find, ever. Almost all of my books are still boxed up, but I’ve been keeping in my purse, on my person, Janice Shapiro’s debut collection just out from Soft Skull. These stories have a narrative fluency I admire (reflecting, I’d wager, Shapiro’s screenwriting background). Overall, they’re sure-footed in both their pacing and their prose, and the book itself, as a collection, feels thematically and tonally right–a true collection, and not just an assemblage of work. Shapiro’s women, as subjects and objects, are likable and funny, and she handles their neuroses, compulsions, and heartaches with a deft hand. What I have appreciated most about Bummer this week is how it has entertained me, offered levity and tenderness without demanding anything more than that I grin and feel. This book shows up without showing off.
An excerpt from what I think is my favorite story in the collection, “Death and Disaster”:
I have ESP or something like that. I can predict things like the next song the DJ’s going to play on the radio, or describe the layout of furniture in rooms I have not been in yet when I go into a stranger’s house, and tell them about pets they had when they were children.
Stephen and I were always trying to cash in on these skills.
“I mean, can’t you like hone it so you can sniff out truffles or something like that?” Stephen would wonder in the middle of the night when we were lying there, sleepless, worrying about money.
More about Janice Shapiro here.