|Russian Lover and Other Stories
||[Jul. 12th, 2007|01:33 pm]
International Bon Vivant and Raconteur
I'll get back to the Straubathon soon, but in the meantime there are a few books by friends and loved ones I want to get to.
First up, Russian Lover and Other Stories by Jana Martin. In the interest of full disclosure, you should know that Jana is my cousin (and was also a founding member of my writing group, Who Wants Cake). Actually, her mother and mine were cousins, so I guess that makes us...second cousins? Cousins once removed? I never could figure that one out.
But even with that said, and the hopes that being related won't affect my review, I loved this collection of short stories. Jana is a literary stylist, which means that her stories are less about plot than they are about character and, perhaps even more importantly, the language used. Each word choice is perfect, resonant to the point of making me jealous of her vocabulary. She also likes to play with structure (as do I; it must run in the family!): the story "Perforated: A Lexicon" is about a woman who is losing her hearing but is told in the form of dictionary entries. "Russian Lover" is a snapshot of a marriage falling apart, told as a series of increasingly angry and desperate letters to the narrator's mother-in-law. "Why I Got Fired" -- one of my favorites from the collection -- is a first-person narrative about a stripper whose bottled up rage explodes one night on stage, and it is told almost entirely without the pronoun "I", using instead a series of gerund verb forms. All this may sound terribly academic, but it leads to a colorful, thrilling reading experience.
Other favorites include "Hope", the story that won her the Glimmer Train Short Story Award, about an ex-junkie taking a bus to Florida to start a new life; "Goodbye John Denver", about a woman who suffers head trauma and becomes obsessed with John Denver's plane accident; and "Rubber Days", about a woman who accidentally lands a dominatrix job and finds she's a little too good at it.
There's a strong sexual undercurrent that runs through many of the stories, replaced only occasionally by an equally strong sense of nostalgia for family life, and almost always told from a female POV. There's a great deal of humor pulsing under the skin, too. If you like well written literary fiction, you should definitely check out Russian Lover and Other Stories.
Up next: My friend and fellow Who Wants Cake member David Wellington's 13 Bullets.