In The Story Is the Thing, Lydia Davis (author of Break it Down and Can’t and Won’t ) shamelessly gushes over the writing of legendary short story author Lucia Berlin. She states, “Berlin is unflinching, pulls no punches, and yet the brutality of life is always tempered by her compassion for human frailty, the wit and intelligence of that narrating voice, and her gentle humor.” Berlin, never reaching best seller status in her lifetime, was still quite well known and influential within literary circles. Thankfully, a posthumous collection of her short stories, A Manual for Cleaning Women, will be released in a few short days, on August 18th. Now the insightful humor and biting honestly of Berlin’s writing can reach a broader audience. Davis writes, “I have always had faith that the best writers will rise to the top, like cream, sooner or later, and will become exactly as well known as they should be—their work talked about, quoted, taught, performed, filmed, set to music, anthologized. Perhaps, with the present collection, Lucia Berlin will begin to gain the attention she deserves.”
In case you don’t believe me or Lydia Davis, or in case your interest has been successfully piqued and you’re thinking to yourself, “I really must get my eyeballs on this woman’s writing,” here is a Berlin short story, Angel’s Laundromat, from her forthcoming collection.
Woven, by Lidia Yuknavitch (author of The Small Backs of Children,) is a deeply moving non-fiction story about family and relationships and friendships and, of course, Laumes-the oldest goddesses of Lithuanian Mythology. But really, it’s a distressing tale of abuse and violence and grief and trauma. Of human compassion and the endless reaches of empathy. Of learning to cope, but the impossibility of certain wounds fully healing. Of the stories we tell ourselves in order to survive. From Guernica.
The featured fiction from Covered with Fur this month is A Suspicion, by Sorrel Westbrook. It’s a painfully honest portrayal of certain events. A suspicion is the protagonist. “Alexander’s suspicion took up smoking. It wasn’t good for it, but it didn’t care right now. When everything had blown over, it would quit. All of its apostle suspicions crowded behind it and squeaked that it should get back to its real work. It had a job to do. It would turn from the dark window, where it had been studying its own reflection instead of the street below, and say that it was tired and to leave it alone.”
In Wanted/Needed/Loved #2: Mary Timony’s Exquisite Corpses, Mary Timony talks to Allyson McCabe about one of her most valued possessions–her exquisite corpse book handmade by a friend out of their own drawings. Mary Timony is a indie singer-songwriter/rock-n-roll goddess/musician active from the early 90s in such bands as Helium, Autoclave, Wild Flag, and currently Ex Hex. Her solo albums are also definitely worth a listen. In Wanted/Needed/Loved, she details her creative process of writing music through comparison with playing the exquisite corpse game. From The Rumpus.
Also, read “Torch Songs Where the Word ‘Me’ Has Been Replaced By ‘Bees,” by Mallory Ortberg, for a smile. From The Toast.