Deb Olin Unferth
2008, hardcover, McSweeney's
Sometimes McSweeney's Book Club's books come in the mail just when you need them, sometimes they accumulate before you get to them. Luckily this one just came in time; a time where I can't go on a vacation, this book's title immediately grabbed my attention. Next I realized I'd read a book by Deb Olin Unferth before and enjoyed it immensely. Hers was one of three books that made up One Hundred and Forty Five Stories in a Small Box. A perfect solution to the weekend.
Unferth's use of language is amazing. AMAZING I tell you! Sometimes so simply written, but within a few words a web of issues, observations, life, emotion, etc. are captured. This book is told by a number of characters and voices, sometimes identified, sometimes blurring into the others' stories. I've written about truisms in books before and Unferth provides some of those here too, but she also takes on the unanswerable elements of life, acutely observes them, and while offering no answers necessarily, the space she provides for them to rumble around in your own head can offer respite to life's ongoing puzzle and its missing pieces.
18- "Strings of parked cars receded away into a dense thicket of lots."
-"So Gray hasn't come home. The lesson learned her was to not ever, ever look forward to anything. ever. Crush expectation. Count on nothing but your own grave."
-"His own smallness, his solitude, the cul-de-sac of his mind."
-"He'd asked her to marry him almost immediately on meeting her. He knew right away he would love her."
19- "No one should spend their life going through places like this. One's mind and soul may look like this, but to have to see it outside oneself was really just too much."
20- "You never take vacations."
-index and lists
21- "Being in a hotel room does not mean you're on vacation."
23- "The day was invading through the windows and under the doors."
27- "There were also the mirrors, and other inaccurate reflections."
40- "She could be searching, not for something lost but for something not yet seen."
49- "The sun soaped the clouds."
50- "...gathered papers instead of writing them..."
60- "She did not heap up his heart in any way at all."
61-62- (I love you)
62- "You never saw so many normal people sitting around and calmly looking and not looking at each other."
75- "A sickening dream of water."
101- "He was already dying when he arrived."
104- "They walked back to the apartment and took up their lives."
111- "...one cannot care for every stone on the path."
113- "He felt like a verb..."
115- "But he disliked the city comprehensively..."
122- life story- book- time- "A man could spend a life telling stories."
-"I walk along my own line of footprints, following myself there and back."
125- "I'm a solo show."
-"You know how it is to want something. Desire builds like a little house in your head and it sits there, half-constructed in your mind. Women who want children are this way. Artists are this way about pictures. It doesn't go away. You may forget for a few months but then it's back, the unfinished pieces of what you want. I don't want anything. I'm fine."
130- no big loves- parents' marriage
131- "I had never been close to anyone, not really, and I wanted to try."
133- "Every man has a weakness, she said. Every man has a past."
134- jumping- Becauses
136- "The insane sound of the cicada."
138- "Where do you go when you leave?"
-"Nowhere, it turned out."
140- "There may have been things wrong with him from the start...his unrealized potential, what he hadn't done..."
142- "It's amazing how unobservant people are, how focused they are on themselves and their own crusades."
143- "A man with a book like that is a man with a place to be."
144- Corn Island- the map
146- "People do things like this, they do, and if it doesn't make them happy, at least it keeps them alive."
147- "I remained. Because that, it turns out, is who I am."
-"Leaving, staying, it's all to hard. I'm still walking around these same places. I am itinerant but steadfast. It takes bravery to care for someone....The risk involved is enormous."
-"Maybe everyone goes back. We chase the thing we flee."
155- "the whole point of marriage being the guarantee that there exists one citizen on earth who is under contract to deal honestly with you."
161- "a papery existence"
167- "A man leaves a place..."
-"stubborn stuck nails that humans are..."
168- office of stamps
172- pirate ship
175- "Have you ever asked her anything at all?"
178- "A vacation is simply, you know, to vacate. The vacationer leaves the homes (leaves the mind), leaves the home empty (except for what he left behind (her)), that's all. No, no, that's not a vacation, if you simply move to a different spot. That's just looking at stuff, familiar stuff."
179- Coney Island
-vacation- writing postcards
190- "Sometimes in large churches, people are crushed beneath them and can't pull themselves out. Sometimes people tumble into the sea and are drowned."
202- "You don't surrender what's yours
206 (briefcase) "the rectangular prison of her husband's soul"
208- "There are many ways to see the world."
212- "All life is urgent."
213- bravest walk