Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Robin Romm

Robin Romm is the author of the short story collection, The Mother Garden.

Recently, I asked her what she was reading; her reply:
I have been reading a lot of great books lately. My boyfriend and I just traveled around Romania and Hungary, so I took along a bundle of Eastern European literature. My favorite of the books that made my backpack so very heavy was probably Embers, by Sandor Marai. It's the story of an old man in a crumbling castle, contemplating a betrayal by a friend (over a girl, of course), long ago. I read this book in one sitting on the plane to Europe. And when I shut it, I let shivers run down my arms for a good minute. Not only does it call up images of castles and lush landscapes, it also asks questions about love and trust, mortality and friendship that resonated with me. A timeless book.

I was also changed by Imre Kertesz's Fatelessness. Kertesz was imprisoned in the labor and concentration camps under Hitler, and his account is strange, disorienting, and full of interesting gaps. He write that he remembers the first moments of his captivity much better than the year that follows, and the result is a fascinating account of moments that give a sense of the daily life led in the death camps. Kertesz is skeptical of pity. He survived by getting sick and being fed by a friendly soldier in a hospital. His book is a meditation on luck and fate, or perhaps, the lack of fate. The last lines of this novel will haunt me always.

On my bedside table right now is The Bell Jar, by Sylvia Plath, which somehow, I never had to read in school. It's a tattered old paperback with roses on the cover--some dime store copy. And it seems right to be reading the narrator's downfall in this particular edition. She just went to her psychiatrist for the first time, so I'm only halfway through it. But Plath, like Marai, manages to evoke a specific time (is it the clothes or the crab salad in an avocado pear that instantly conjures the 50's-60's?) while capturing the oddness of vision and sadness of an artist trying to make sense of the world.
Robin Romm is Assistant Professor of Creative Writing and Literature at the College of Santa Fe. Stories of hers have appeared in many national literary magazines, including Tin House, The Threepenny Review, One Story, and Quarterly West.

Among the praise for The Mother Garden:
"These stories are fantastic -- in both senses of the word. They are also eerie and moving, and they mark the debut of a very gifted young writer."
--Ann Packer

"The Mother Garden presents a wonderful new voice. I found the stories full of lively quirkiness, many individual sentences pulsing with surprising word choices and imagery, and graceful endings that made me smile -- sometimes quite nervously, but always appreciatively."
--Ann Beattie

"Imagination soars over sorrow in these heartfelt, darkly comic -- and most important -- fearless stories. Robin Romm is a writer of tremendous grace, and this is a striking first collection."
--Peter Orner
Visit Romm's website and MySpace page.

--Marshal Zeringue