Sunday, August 10, 2014

Holly Menino

Holly Menino grew up in a small Ohio college town, where her passionate interest in animals showed itself by age three, about ten years before she heard the call to be a writer. A graduate of Smith College, she has worked in both scholarly and popular publishing and is the author of Murder, She Rode.

Her new book is A Distance to Death.

Last month I asked the author about what she was reading. Menino's reply:
Because I still wonder what makes a good short story as compared with a good novel requires, I've been reading lots of stories lately. Elizabeth Spencer, Alice Munro, a collection edited by Tom Perrotta, and most recently Lorrie Moore. If I had to come up with a single word to define Moore's new collection Bark, I'd say attachment. If I were allowed two words, I'd say attachment and loss. Loneliness is a silent observer in these stories of people finding, clinging, leaving or being left.

Time jumps around—but that doesn't matter because so much of the sequence in these stories is emotional—and as it passes Moore's characters do some startling things. A doting mother invites a new boyfriend over to meet her teenage son, and after dinner mother and son amuse themselves by wrestling as if she were a boy his own age. In another story a woman offers her lemon meringue pie to a friend, and when it is refused, she slams the pie into her own face. A few minutes later, saying good-bye, she declares, "Onward," and since we've already witnessed her death, we know exactly which direction she has in mind.

What gives these moments their force is Moore's voice. It is determinedly flat, casual speech that takes in trade names, incorporates professional lingo, and turns trite then abruptly lucid. It works for all her lonely characters—male, female, young child, and the very, very old. I can't figure out why it works, but it's truly effective.

It's effect on me was to send me in search of company.
Visit Holly Menino's website.

--Marshal Zeringue