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Reading in Bed Year in Review #2: Shorties

The year in review continues! See my first post about literary crushes here.

I read (or am reading) a few longer books this year, notably Moby-Dick and Middlemarch, but today I’m celebrating my favourite short reads: sentences and short stories.

Favourite Sentence (Tie)
1. “Her head was back, looking up at the stars, if there were stars.”

-Michael Ondaatje’s The Cat’s Table, which I already gushed about here. “…if there were stars” gets me every time.

2. “Ladies can eat me and call it a juice cleanse.”

-Sarah Nicole Prickett railing against “ladies” in “Where Are All the Women.This was my first encounter with @snpsnpsnp and I’ve faithfully read her articles and essays since. Sometimes her writing fuels my “don’t call me a Millennial” angst and sometimes I don’t get what she’s saying at all. Often, though, she nails it. This line made me do a reading double-take – did I really just read that? Yes, I did.

Favourite Short Story
Oblivion_Stories_book_coverThis should have been a tough call, seeing as I read several wonderful short story collections this year, including Hellgoing, The Progress of Love, and 40 Below. It wasn’t tough at all, though. Incarnations of Burned Children by David Foster Wallace from the collection Oblivion wins by a mile.

Calling it my “favourite” doesn’t feel quite right – should your “favourite” cause so much trauma? I read this story near the end of the day at work. I had an inkling it might be a harrowing read, but it was only nine sentences long – perfect for a little mental break. How bad could it be? Nothing could have prepared me for the emotions I experienced. It wasn’t just that it deals with a young child’s severe injury, it deals with parenting, love, life, death, and most traumatizing of all, how each of us is utterly alone and can never really know another person. Reminder: Nine sentences. After attempting to calm myself down for ten minutes, I left work early and picked up my kids because I just couldn’t deal.

It wasn’t Infinite Jest, or any of his essays, or his famous Keynon College commencement speech that convinced me of DFW’s genius. It was this completely devastating story, that left me reeling for weeks. Part of me wants to buy Oblivion, but part of me can’t allow these words to physically exist in my house. Hence the trouble with “favourite.” Here’s the story, but please, please, do not read this at work or if you have to function anytime in the near future.

 

8 Comments Post a comment
  1. I should have taken your warning seriously.

    December 26, 2013
    • Oh no, hope you’re feeling better today!

      December 26, 2013
      • Those nine sentences are so much worse that the Hemingway six words story (For sale: Baby shoes, never worn) although that one too is tough to read. But omg, they forgot the diaper…

        December 28, 2013
  2. Andrew #

    I love that “Burned Children” made it to the top of the list. I’ve read it dozens of times now and it still gets me every goddamned time. “When it wouldn’t stop and they couldn’t make it…” Jesus, David, right in the heart!

    I read it to my class last year and got a little chokey during that part. I used it as an opportunity to discuss the value of connecting on a deeply personal level with a story (a thing that the academic world often steamrolls over) and how that is really what art is for. It was one of those moments where I watched about 80% of the class click and suddenly finally get what literature is good for. I got a bunch of emails after the fact saying that was the best lecture.

    So in summary, I’m sort of glad I suggested it to you, even if it made you abandon ship at work in a teary mess. Happens to the best of us. :)

    December 30, 2013
    • I’m glad you did too! So what should my next DFW be?

      December 31, 2013
  3. I just went to add “The Cat’s Table” to my goodreads based on your review but saw I already had it there, from some other source. Thanks for reminding me about that book!

    December 31, 2013
    • Hope you like it. I feel like it’s an unpopular choice!

      January 2, 2014

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