Sunday, August 25, 2002

The Divide Made Clear

Sunday's Commercial Appeal has a short book review by Fredric Koeppel that contains one of the most succinct explications of why regular people don't read the "literature" books that Koeppel and his high-tone buddies regularly review in the CA's Fanfare section. It's not online, but I'll retype the relevant portion here.
The nine fearless, harrowing stories in You Are Not a Stranger Here involve good people who have been dealt a mess of trouble. Mental illness, isolation, humiliation, loss, defeat, plain old sadness and the inability to cope stain the lives of Haslett's characters. The only hope the stories offer, and it's a tough one, is that persistence can bring about human connection. As one character says, "It is a negative sort of achievement to have spent a life warding something off," but even that meager victory can seem like a triumph in a life of despair where earning compassion doesn't necessarily mean having to find a name for your pain. Though a few of the stories are flawed by easy endings, You Are Not a Stranger Here launches the career..."Yeah, I'm gonna devote a few evenings to reading that!

For Koeppel and his ilk, triumphing over adversity is "easy endings." For most of the rest of us, it's a satisfying ending. No wonder that most of the books the CA reviews sell only in the low thousands, if that. But then, for that crowd it's a sign of their specialness, that so many don't "get it."


Until next time,
Your Working Boy

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