My friend Kat is a lovely person. She is smart, funny, kind and she is an amazing reader. She reads quickly and deeply. I admire that. She is also very generous and it is thanks to her that I have been turned from one who approached the reading of short story collections with disinterest to one who loves them almost as much (and sometimes more) than novels. I’m a short story collection convert and I’m taking up the cause of the collection and saying to the publishing machine (not that it is listening) that people DO like to read collections and if you would quit convincing yourselves that they are a hard sell, then the readers of the world would listen.
Okay, so, the last short story collection I read was the absolutely brilliant Fidelity by Michael Redhill. Before reading this collection, I had known of Redhill only through his association with Brick, but after reading it I am eager to seek out more of his work. The stories in Fidelity are quiet; they sneak up on you. They are also very close, very intimate without seeming to be so. You are instantly pulled into the world of the story, even though you’re not sure you want to be there, but you can’t help it because what you see is yourself and how you would feel, react.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the uncomfortable and expertly written story, “Cold” in which a man takes off on his first trip to Europe (leaving his pissed off wife behind) with his broken-hearted college roommate (whom he has not seen in years). In the end, realizing that nothing is as it seems–not life, not our tenuous relationships, not our understanding of who we are–he ends up on something of a ledge, where a man thinks he is trying to commit suicide and attempts to stop him:
If I’d spoken his language, I might have been able to explain how I’d come to this moment in my life, but what people say about themselves is not nearly half of what you need to know about them. After another moment, I stepped back from the parapet and the man lowered his hands and smiled at me warmly. A misunderstanding is all it was.
Without hesitation, I say to you, buy this book.