(This essay is one in a series of pieces about what I am reading during National Short Story Month 2011. To see a list of the stories, visit What I’m Reading During National Short Story Month 2011.)
May 31, 2011
“As a writer now, I want to save Linda’s life,” O’Brien’s narrator says of the childhood friend who died before they were ten years old. “Not her body — her life.” My fiction is not autobiographical, and yet I weave into it the things I have carried — a dead cat, a lost love, a jar of mayonnaise shattered on the supermarket floor. My nineteenth century farm wife, grieving the four children who died of a summer fever, carries my grief over the children I didn’t have. My twenty-first century librarian, kneading her psomi while she considers changing her life, carries the courage that gave me the child I did have, and the grace that let me take so much joy in her.
I read 31 stories in 31 days. I’m taking a break from reading fiction to concentrate on writing it again. I have some lives to save — an emotionally restless math teacher, an apprentice undertaker, a teen mother, and a woman who goes to funerals of people she doesn’t know.
Thank you for reading, so much, so often.