"I suppose I'd read too many books to be normal."
Remember that time when I got really into Emma Donoghue, and read all the things by her I could find (3 books, as it happened) and then kind of neglected her a little bit for like a year? (You probably don't. But that happened). Well, the wonderful Bex bought me Touchy Subjects for Christmas because she is the beacon of loveliness, and I swear I didn't mean to read it straight away, but... Well, there was the mini-readathon and everything, and this book is short stories, and well... I just kept on reading!
I was the tiniest bit apprehensive that this was short stories, actually, only because I'm used to Donoghue's novels, and what if *whispers* she's not as good at writing short stories and I have to say something mean about her?!
I have so many gifs that would have been appropriate
for WILKIE readalongs now. It breaks my heart.
OBViously I didn't need to worry at all, because it turns out that Donoghue can write whatever the hell she wants, whenever the hell she wants, and it is always always excellent. I find it so difficult to pin down exactly what I like about her writing, because it kind of seems like there's nothing remarkable about it, but it's just SO clear, and seems to flow so well that she always always gets me and there's nothing I can do to stop the effect she has on me. It's crazy-good, but I don't know whether that means she just writes in a way that I essentially find perfect, or if she actually is as good as I think she is.
Maybe it's a bit of both.
And now we come to the awkward part where I don't know how to write about short stories.
I mean... I don't know man, they're all pretty good. As the title of the book suggests, the stories are divided up into sections, each of which is a 'touchy subject'- babies, desire, death... and each of the stories contains its own touchy subject. This makes each story incredibly different (and I really do mean incredibly different- Donoghue isn't just one to stick with what she knows, either that or she knows A LOT) but also means that there's a thread running through them that makes them all make sense together. Which isn't something that can always be said about short story collections, STEPHEN KING I'M LOOKING AT YOU.
Anyway! The point is that each story is really really very good (I think there was maybe one I didn't like that much, but it wasn't bad) and they are all so different from each other that even now I can clearly pick them apart in my brain and think about them separately, which is really rare for me and short stories- they tend to merge into one, apart from the few really good ones, so I think I'm going to have to say that all of them were the really good ones!
If, say, I was going to pick a favourite from each section (and this is under duress, I should add) I guess I'd go with:
- Expecting- A woman has an awkward encounter with a stranger where he assumes that she must be pregnant and so she pretends to be, only there's a lot more to it than that, and it made me think about what obligations we have to strangers, and how strange it is that we feel that we do.
- The Cost of Things- A story about a relationship and a cat, and how the cost of things isn't necessarily the same as how much you value them.
- WritOr- This was maybe my favourite story in the collection, about a writer who has to advise members on the public on their own writing, starting off being enthusiastic and kind, and being torn down by how difficult he finds pretending to like bad writing is. He's a lot less of an ass than that makes him sound, and I felt for him, but also for his deluded students.
- Team Men- A coming of sexual-age tale about two boys on a football team who fall in, well, lust with each other. It's all very hush hush and non-talked about feelingsy and maaaan did I need to watch Brokeback Mountain after reading it.
- Baggage- There was just so so so much unsaid, and undiscovered in this story that I loved it, cause I enjoy when my mind runs wild with speculations, even after the story has ended- especially after that. It's pretty great
So those were my favourites, but as I said, they were all great. Really really great. So clearly drawn that, even if it was never mentioned, you could pretty much guess where they were set, and, just as short stories should, they really showed a snapshot of a part of lives that you can really imagine continuing beyond the confines of the story, having pasts and futures and involving characters that practically live and breathe.
I mean, I really really like Emma Donoghue, has that been clear enough?
Ok, cool! That's all, then.