Books, books, books. Besides the copies of the magazines and journals and online and paper newspapers, I've been busy reading over the break. I just finished T. Coraghessan's Greasy Lake and Other Stories, a book with a wide range of subject matter, but with a consistent attention to detail and style. I had read two stories some time ago--"Greasy Lake" and "The Overcoat II"--and these prompted me to pick up the collection, which didn't disappoint. I'm also reading Amy Hempel's collection of stories Reasons to Live and Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking, both excellent books.
Didion's book is a sharp reminder of a class of people that live lives very different than mine and yours, I'd guess, people who can tick off the names of doctors and lawyers and writers and celebreties they count among their friends, people who pack up and fly across the continent or the ocean on a moment's notice, people for whom budgets do not seem to exist, people who call up neurologists and argue with them. I'm struck by that notion of power and wealth more than the anguish that she faces in light of the death of her husband and the illness of her daughter. Mostly the book seems to illustrate the frustration the author feels in having the orderly, managed, and comfortable world she lived in shattered by tragic events that she cannot control. For most of us, that world of chaos and disorder is far closer than it is for her; we live in the expectation of its arrival, in ongoing efforts to keep our footing within it. The plans of the world are always unfolding without our approval.
The world of Boyle's "Greasy Lake," where adolescents pretending to be "dangerous characters" actually run into some truly dangerous ones, is a lot closer to the world most of us live in. Still, there's a strange attraction to seeing Didion's dawning recognition of what most of us knew all along.