[SS] How Beautiful the Ordinary – Michael Cart (ed.)

March 6, 2010 § 10 Comments

Short Saturday: I join Mee on her journey in search of 5-star quality short stories. It’s all about the journey, she says, not the destination.

I bring this book home from the library, take it out of the bag and hold it in both hands. I love this book already. The type is exquisite, the size of the book just right, the thickness of it sitting nicely in my palms. How beautiful the book looks, and yet how ordinary it is: no pictures of unexpected lovers holding hands, no sketches or drawings of would-be characters. Just subtle colours on black. Ordinary. Beautiful.

A Word from the Nearly Distant Past, you don’t know what you’re in for. You expect stories about children, young adults, finding out that they’re queer, you expect stories of how they are sad, depressed; or stories of how they are jubilant, happy. You expect a Dyke March. You expect to read it and finish it, and expect it to end there. Well, like we said, you don’t know what you’re in for.

Each night thereafter, I closed my eyes, took deep breaths until in that place between sleep and wake, I unzipped this world I wore.

~ Trev, Jacqueline Woodson

Now, in the present, I know how little I expected of the book, and I now know how completely it blew me away. I had expected to like the book; I hadn’t expected to feel it so deeply. I don’t usually resonate with young adult fiction, but there will always be a First Time for everything.

It was an exquisite irony: Just when we stopped wanting to kill ourselves, we started to die. Just when we were feeling strength, it was taken away from us.

~ A Word from the Nearly Distant Past, David Levithan

This collection of short stories, in many different forms, took me to the edge of my heart, tipped me over to look at the dark abyss in which my heart is floating on no support, and wrenched me back to reality.

We know that some of you are still scared. We know that some of you are still silent. Just because it’s better now doesn’t mean that it’s good.

~ A Word from the Nearly Distant Past, David Levithan

Not everyone gets a Happily Ever After; some of them get A Dark Red Love Knot at that place where their hearts used to be. Some experience the excruciating pain of loss and heartbreak, it’s like listening to someone scratch their Fingernail back and forth on a blackboard.  Some are lucky enough to know the exhilaration and ecstasy of holding a loved one in their arms.

She has this explosive laugh that shakes her whole body. Even when she isn’t around, her laughter rings in my ears. Just knowing I’ll hear it every day makes me smile.

~ First Time, Julie Anne Peters

I did not love all the stories, but every one of them gave me something new. They gave me something to think about, something to reflect, something to understand, something to love. It made me see, again, just How Beautiful the Ordinary can actually be.

Rating: 4.5

For: LGBT Challenge

* Note: I particularly loved David Levithan’s A Word from the Nearly Distant Past. I think I know now why I’ve been reading so many good things about his writing. His story just reached out of the pages and touched me deep in that little dark corner of my heart that I normally keep to myself. I’d give his story a full 5.

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§ 10 Responses to [SS] How Beautiful the Ordinary – Michael Cart (ed.)

  • Amanda says:

    I have this collection at home and hope to read it slowly over the next year. I’m bad at reading entire collections all at once.

    • Michelle says:

      I think reading this collection slowly might be a good idea. I don’t usually read anthologies, but I do agree that taking it slow is sometimes the way to go.

  • This short story collection sounds LOVELY. And I heart David Levithan. One novel by him was all that it took for me to fall in love with his words. =D

  • Vishy says:

    Beautiful review! I loved the title of the book ‘How Beautiful the Ordinary’! I liked your comment ‘I don’t usually resonate with young adult fiction, but there will always be a First Time for everything.’ 🙂 Very true! I avoided Harry Potter for years (till the fourth volume came out) and then read the first one and couldn’t resist it thereafter.

  • mee says:

    I’m glad you’re continuing your journey. Mine is stuck for a bit while I’m trying to catch up with life :). I hope to continue again next week. I haven’t heard of David Levithan before. I’ll keep him in mind. Btw this Michael Cart is the same person as the editor of In the Stacks (the anthology I talked about the other day). A coincidence?

    • Michelle says:

      It’s great to have a companion on this journey, so I’m definitely cool with ‘taking over’ once or twice when other things catch up with you.

      I knew Michael Cart was the editor for your short story collection In The Stacks, but I didn’t know he was the editor for this one until I picked it up! Strange coincidence. Maybe it just means he’s a good editor?

  • Mark David says:

    Yes, it’s not very common to find a collection where in you’ll like all the stories, but there’s usually one that really speaks to you, one that really captivates you.

    I’ve also recently learned (from blogs) that there are tons of YA fiction that can actually be as compelling as literary fiction. One of these days, I’m going to try one… Lovely review 🙂

    • Michelle says:

      It is quite uncommon, but I’m still rather determined to find that one collection/anthology of short stories in which I love each and every single one. It might be out there lurking, who knows? =)

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