Saturday, October 20, 2012

Binocular Vision

by Edith Pearlman
Wilmington : Lookout Books/University of North Carolina Wilmington, c2011.

In this collection of thirty-four stories, Edith Pearlman brings into sharp focus the everyday and extraordinary lives of people. Many of them are set just outside of Boston, and many of them have Jewish characters. While many modern short story writers seem to take a depressing tone, Pearlman's are never that simple. Some are sad; many are hopeful. Most were, at the very least, thought-provoking.

But it would be hard to take such a variegated collection and begin to make generalizations without losing the beauty of each individual one. Pearlman has a real gift for language that made reading each of these short stories a pleasure. I found myself wanting to both rush and slow down at the same time. I would hold out the treat of reading a story as a gift to myself: if you finish getting ready for work, you can read one more.

One of my favorite stories was "Jan Term," told in the form of a composition a Josie, a student composed telling about what she did over the last school break, but illuminating so much more about her life. "Elder Jinks" tells the story of two older people who married, but it left me thinking about both the compromises and discoveries you make through marriage. Then there was a series of stories set during and after World War 2 that had some recurring characters, but in different situations. These were just a few of the stories I could happily revisit, and I feel sure that whether a story left me happy, sad, or unsettled, I could reread it and know I gained a richer understanding.

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