my tragic right hip

Busting out bad joints all over the place

March 13th, 2013

Book Review #7 – Poached Eggs on Toast

I read a lot of good books. Books I’d recommend heartily to friends and family. Books I push on strangers at various events. Books I try to sell. Books with good writing, a solid story, and that provide a solid experience from start to finish. Good writing is good writing. But great writing, well, that brings an emotional depth that resonates and goes beyond the story itself. Poached Eggs on Toast is, simply put, great writing. Frances Itani’s Deafening was a glorious novel, but I think that when she’s faced with the short story, her work packs a punch that the format allows–there’s no doubt that the pieces in this collection benefit from their length. They are focussed, sharp, intense, and brilliantly characterized.

It’s true. I had often devalued the short story in my own reading. Preferring the length of a novel, I grew tired of the collections I was coming across that depended on “twee” (ugh, I despise ‘twee’) and “quirkiness” to get them to the end. But here, the basis for all of Itani’s work are the very rich and very real experiences of life. Real life. Lives that are shared, and put under pressure. Disease, war, destruction–they provide the backdrop, the impetus for her characters to do something, but Itani writes about life like nobody’s business, and that I appreciated.

A few of the stories take place in war-torn countries, wives of soldiers, diplomats, peace-keepers themselves in a very different way, leave the comfort of their homes to exist on bottled water and food in packets to keep their lives safe. One story that has resonated with me, “Marx & Co.”, which is about two friends, one of whom is dying of breast cancer, remains one of the strongest portrayals of female friendship I’ve ever read in print. Overall, I read these stories in short bursts, subway rides, before bed, moments when I’m frayed and exhausted and burnt out from the grind, and found them to be inspiring, achingly so, and I didn’t want the collection to end.

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Girl with titanium hip will rock. Girl with titanium hip will write. Girl with titanium hip will read. Girl with titanium hip will battle crazy-ass disease called Wegener's Granulomatosis. Now stuff that in your spelling bee!

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