I loved Other People We Married by Emma Straub. I’ll put that out there immediately. Don’t worry, I will get more nuanced than that but first I need to talk about French flaps on books. There Is No Year has French flaps too and that thrilled me. I love paperback books with those flaps on them. It feels sophisticated. The French flap is, by far, the best book innovation I’ve seen in a long time. I want to put French flaps on everything. Other People We Married has French flaps so I was very optimistic when I began reading. I just had to get that off my chest.
There are a few things that really elevate Other People We Married above so many of the short story collections I’ve read this year—the visible level of craft in the writing, the intimate attention to detail, and the cleanness of the prose.
When we talk about clean writing and minimilast writing, our natural instinct is to discuss Raymond Carver who is so widely known for his stripped down writing, telling big stories with as little artifice as possible. The stories in Other People We Married did not necessarily evoke Carver for me but there was a really clean, minimal quality to the writing I really enjoyed. The writing in this collection demonstrated a new kind of minimalism, one where the stories are stripped of artifice but still retain some of the detail and texture that can really fill a story and that I sometimes miss when I’m reading the work of someone like Carver.
It is rare that I will love every story in a collection but I did love each of the twelve stories in this collection both individually and also as a whole collection with a distinctive shape. Each story was intimate and engaging and really, really clean. I never found a word or idea out of place, nothing that pulled me from the stories or the people and places borne of Straub’s imagination.
May 9th, 2011 / 4:32 pm
Five Chapters is going the opposite direction of the current trend and expanding their electronic publishing module into print objects. They’ve just announced their first three titles, collections by Emma Straub and Jess Row, as well as an anthology. An interview with founder Dave Daley is up at Galley Cat, with his insight into sales #s and the logic of the shift.