Monday, September 17, 2012

Love, in Theory by E. J. Levy

Title: Love, in Theory
Author: E. J. Levy

Genre: Fiction (Short Stories / Relationships / Midwest / Single Women / Divorces / LGBT / Weddings / University Life)
Publisher/Publication Date: University of Georgia Press (9/15/2012)
Source: TLC Book Tours

Rating: Loved, in reality, not theory.
Did I finish?: I did, and I reread about half the stories!
One-sentence summary: Ten short stories on love, loss, and everything in between.

Do I like the cover?: I looooove the cover -- it's kind of like a mock flow chart identifying the various themes

I'm reminded of...: Aislinn Hunter, Tara L. Masih,

First line: It's not like we believed that they were the sons of God or anything, but for a while (before Dr. Davidson and all the publicity, before it became a story, when we were still just folks caught up in the mystery of the thing), we felt kind of special -- chosen, you might say -- to be host to the three Christs of Moose Lake, Minnesota., from 'The Three Christs of Moose Lake, Minnesota'

Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Borrow or buy -- this is marvelously crafted fiction, tight and emotional, pretty and captivating.

Why did I get this book?: The title -- I love it so -- and Levy was award the Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction which seemed very promising!

Review: You know how when you meet someone, and you immediately decide they're a total snob and you hate their guts, and then you spend more time with them and you realize you were totally wrong and this person is actually wildly cool, and now you've got to backpedal to all your friends about how that person is actually not as awful as you originally said...? Well, that's exactly my experience with this book.

On Friday I blogged about how I was kind of on the fence about this book because there's adultery and a lesbian who falls for a married man, and I definitely had my eyeballs rolling as I opened the first page. Ooops.

I loved this collection. (Not in theory, either, but for real.)

Every story was like, I don't know, something delectable and redolent. Be it a piece of chocolate or a slice of cake or a gorgeous aria -- Levy's writing sucked me in from the first line and I wanted to savor her stories, linger with them.

The characters felt real, immediately, their emotional state familiar and resonant, and their challenges and conflicts achingly, uncomfortably articulated. In the much feared 'Theory of Dramatic Action', with the lesbian and married man, I found a character I could relate to and understand, and a poignant situation that made me tear up a little. The volume's opening story, 'The Best Way Not to Freeze', about a woman's first real love, was so good I read it twice, then read it to my wife, then to a friend. After that, when I started reading 'The Three Christs of Moose Lake, Minnesota' to my wife, she just took the volume from my hands to inhale on her own. (I raced through this book in one night, then reread almost all the stories over the following two days.)

I have to stop saying I dislike short fiction because clearly, I do like it. These snapshots of relationships, of people, of emotional landscapes are as satisfying as a chunky novel. Maybe more so -- they're like the first bite of a fabulous meal. You want the taste to linger, but it disappears. The next story, the next bite, is just as intriguing. The only perk is, after glutting myself on Levy's book, I still wanted more.

27 comments:

  1. sounds marvelous, marvelous, marvelous!

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    1. It was so good. I'm so sad I can't offer a giveaway copy because I want to shove this into everyone's hands. I'm not going to part with my copy either -- it's so going into the reread pile. I forget words I'm so wild about this one!

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    2. Oh, Audra, thank you so much for absolutely *making* my new year's day (Rosh Hashanah, that is)! Just read your very insightful and generous review--and wanted to send heartfelt thanks! (BTW, I LOVE the book's cover, too! Huge thanks to the wonderful folks at the press and especially to designer Kaelin Broaddus for that!)

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    3. Ms. Levy -- thank you so much for stopping by and for your kind words! The cover of this book is just perfect -- captures the feel and setting of your stories perfectly. Wonderful collection!

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  2. I also love the cover and title, and love your first paragraph in your Review section. I may have to break my "no short stories" rule and seek this one out!

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    1. Do, do! The stories are *so* complete -- but such powerful little gut punches -- if there was a collection to try, this might be it. Looooved it!

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  3. Ooh nice. And I like the cover (what is it with you and awesome covers?).

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    1. I totally select books by cover -- I'm so influenced by the pretty!

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  4. Wow, this sounds like a winner. I always say I should read more short fiction, since long blocks of time to read seem to allude me lately. Sounds like this would be a good one to try.

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    1. Col --- dooooooooooooo iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit. This was a marvelous volume -- very good to dip in and out of!

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  5. Okay, I sort of had to skim this review, because I don't want to plagiarize you by accident in mine, which I'm planning to write tonight. I've read 6 or 7 of the stories at this point. So far, I've loved almost all of them, although the last two I read were odd. Her writing, however, is gorgeous throughout.

    :)

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    1. I sooo know that feeling -- will check out your review tomorrow. I've loved all the stories too -- which ones were the odd ones for you? 'Gorgeous' is exactly how her writing is -- I almost didn't feel like I was reading, though -- I wasn't aware of her writing as I got the story -- does that make sense?

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    2. That does make sense. I do that too sometimes, but this was very much a read where I was focused on the language, delving deep into her beautiful prose.

      The ones that were weird were almost entirely the ones that didn't focus on a female protagonist, and that one with the single white female style MC. I'd need to go look at the book to pinpoint the one I really had issues with, as I'm not able to remember just now. Memory! *shakes fist*

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  6. It's hard to believe coming from an avid reader like me, but I rarely read short story anthologies. Your review is a good reminder that there are some wonderful stories out there. I'll look this book up.

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    1. Mirella -- I used to walk around saying I hated short fiction rawr rawr, but the last year and a half, I've read tons more short fiction and have loved it -- I'm not sure why I was so snobby about it, but there ya go. It's wonderful -- I told someone above her writing is so lovely, you kind of don't notice it -- you're just caught up in the story.

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  7. Ooh, I'm intrigued! Anything dealing exquisitely with matters of the heart gets my attention, and your review has definitely whetted (whet?) my appetite. Will be looking for this one!

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    1. Meg, you will SO love this then -- it was so deft and nuanced. I really expected, say, the lesbian and married man story to go in one direction, and I was delighted to see I was wrong. All her stories sort of felt that -- I thought I for sure got the gist and then Levy did something wonderful. So good.

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  8. Ooh, you had my attention even before I got to the review, when you said you already re-read some of the stories! Great rest of the review, too, but you had me at the beginning ;-)

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    1. Hooray, my job is done! It's really a wonderful collection -- so good and bittersweet and romantic and sad and and and ...! ;)

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  9. I love that you read things out loud to your wife and friends! I need an Audra who is in closer proximity to me than you are. *pout*

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    1. AGREED! I absolutely need to live on West Coast, I think. Just fits my personality AND I need more real life bookish friends!

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  10. Your snobby friend analogy really worked here. I feel the same way about so many books. I start off being so critical and then sometimes have to back peddle a bit to make up for it.

    I agree with Trish. You need to be closer to us West Coast folks.

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    1. I'm West Coast in my heart, I'm pretty sure!

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  11. Any story collection that makes you want to read bits of it twice really gets my attention! I love that you compare this to a wonderful piece of chocolate, which is something I can't resist. It's starting to sound like I shouldn't even try to resist this book either! Fantastic review today, Audra!

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    1. Do not resist this volume. You'll be sooo glad you gave it a read! (I'm kind of tempted to reread some of the stories for a third time, to savor again!)

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  12. Your words of how you reacted to it, well, it sounds brilliant. And it's surely a mark of goodness that you disliked it and then liked it - some of the books you end up remembering best start like that.

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