Thursday, July 26, 2012
In Vanishing and Other Stories, secrets are both kept and unearthed, and lives are shaped by missing lovers, parents, and children. With wisdom and dexterity, moments of dark humor, and a remarkable economy of words, Deborah Willis captures an incredible array of characters that linger in the imagination and prove that nothing is ever truly forgotten. (book back blurb)
Every once in a while I'll come across a book with such stunning writing that when I get to the end of it I can't help but heave a great big sigh of relief. There is hope. There is talent. There are WORDS.
I like reading anthologies but they're usually a compendium of stories from different writers so each work is, by default, going to be different. Different styles, different prose, different methods. Personally I find it a lot harder for an author to write a single anthology composed entirely of their own stories and have each story differentiate itself from the last. My experience in that is pretty even keel; one working out not so well and the other I ended up loving. VANISHING? Yeah, I pretty much loved it.
VANISHING has stories told of life. They're not all that action-packed. In many not much really happens outside of a character's internal monologues. But the way they're all written Willis just sinks her claws into each and every one of her characters and forces them off the page so that you can't help but see them as their own individuals. And that's exactly what they are. From the grieving scientist in ESCAPE to the lonely teacher in THE FIANCEE to the boy-turned-man in AND THE LIVING IS EASY, each are individuals, each are wholly separate and each are as vivid in my mind as if they were all given their own books.
VANISHING is one of those books that one SHOULD read because it's that kind of book. These are the stories that would get taught in literature classes, dissected for meaning, subtext, intent. To some that's a bad thing but I loved reading good short stories when I was in school. It was how I was introduced to the likes of Flannery O'Connor. And she's pretty awesome. But just because people SHOULD read it doesn't make it bad or dull. They're all engaging stories, each and every one of them, with a range of protagonists, a range of ages and a good mix of both sexes. There is literally something for everyone in VANISHING and the writing is so good all the rest would just suck you in anyway.
All of the stories are inherently real, spun golden by words that would make any writer envious (including this one). But it's not a high falutin, overtly showy type of writing. It's glorious, simple enough to hook the resistant but intricate enough to ensnare the more well-read, those with noses held higher than others. When literary does it right, it REALLY does it right. Willis's writing is effortless. She doesn't come across as trying to impress or show off her writing prowess. Her words are for the stories and the stories are for you. It's that simple. And they're wonderful.
There may not be anything supernatural in VANISHING but that doesn't make it any less engaging. It still hooks, it still drags you in and then spits you out, leaving you reeling in your book hangover because the writing . . . THE WRITING. It stuns. It really does.
Ban Factor: Low - It's pretty innocuous. There might be a couple of salacious pieces in there but that would require the banners to read and that's just downright silly to expect.