The heartwarming story of the three women friends is a unifying thread in the novel. They met as children living on Livonia Avenue in Brooklyn, and became inseparable. Kitty, “the brave one”, introduced the other two to Chinese food, and pursued her love of dance into a career at Radio City Music Hall.
All the story titles involve some form of the verb, “to tell”, because the collection as a whole is about the things people tell themselves and others. Some characters tell themselves the truth and live authentically; others do not. In “But I Will Tell You Otherwise,” Janie and Cha Cha defy social mores and pressures and think for themselves.
Svoboda’s characters contend with people who came before them: daughters with fathers, grandchildren with grandfathers, high-schoolers with college drop-outs. There is always someone there to blow the seeds into your face. Someone to obscure the vision. There is always something that manages to be not-there: pollution that is not believed in, menace that can be tied in conversation, meanness in the expectations of filial duty.
However true to fact and corroborated by photos and drawings, memoir is always subject to recreation, to one-sided perception, rewriting, and recasting. It is always both true and fictive, and like dreams, pieced together from a grab-bag of images and turned into stories that reflect the themes being explored. The Age of Fibs picks up on this uncertainty beautifully and works with it, allowing for openness, complexity, and fragmentation, while still keeping the coherency of the story intact.
So much of what makes the present tense of the novel possible comes down to luck, small acts of kindness, and the often random connections that take place. The book is beautifully written, poetic throughout and very moving. There is a lyrical richness and cadence which creates immediacy.
Come the Tide is a sun-soaked, water-drenched, variegated collection of thirteen short stories that explores the ambiguous psychic implications of the now-you-see-it/now-you-don’t liminal terrain where dry land meets restless water.
An award-winning California poet, writer, and public school principal, Dr. Mary Langer Thompson was born in Illinois. She is active in the California Writer’s Club, High Desert Branch, and was California’s Senior Poet Laureate. She has given poetry and writing workshops and has authored poetry, nonfiction, and fiction and is the author of The Gull Who Thought He Was Dull, released by AnotherThinkComing Press in 2018.
Brandi’s prose is consistently beautiful, and the story itself remains compelling and fast paced. The rip metaphor is repeated like a refrain throughout the book, and creates a strong connection between the reader and the protagonist. The Rip is an intense, important read, shining a light on an area that has not been the subject of much art, and encouraging deep empathy, understanding and engagement.
There is also an inherent indeterminacy or multiplicity in the way the story unfolds, so that it is both a domestic story, with sumptuously described meals, personal care/tenderness, tea taking, and small acts of kindness that include buying teddies and dolls and supportive talk between friends, as well as being a story of international espionage involving great acts of big evil: arms dealing, drug dealing, government complicity, murder, and looming war.
The writing in both these novellas is masterfully self-effacing. Nothing is forced and nothing draws attention to itself, yet it is all perfect, natural, necessary. It reminds me of the films of Kelly Reichardt, whose shots and compositions share the same sense of unexpected revelation amid the everyday.