Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Nine Inches

by Tom Perrotta

Sometimes I wonder if Tom Perrotta falls under the category of Stuff White People Like. He feels a little like a niche writer (suburban, first-world-problems, family dramas, etc.) at times, but it's a niche I happen to love.

I've already said quite a bit about Tom Perrotta; I'll try not to repeat myself too much. He is one of my favorite writers, partly because his stories seem so effortless. Everything about this story collection feels true-to-life. Just regular people going about their days, coping with their own personal tragedies, trying to get by. Nine Inches concerns people who make bad choices and have to deal with the consequences. It's life.

My favorite stories are probably "Senior Season" and "The Test-Taker." My only qualm about "Senior Season" is that the narrative voice seems to sophisticated for a high school senior. Aside from that, I really don't take issue with Perrotta's writing. These stories, for all the character flaws and bad choices, are really enjoyable.

This is a boring post because I just like everything about this book. And you should read it.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Dark Path

by David Schickler

This is a book I didn't know I needed to read until I started reading it.

I read Schickler's story collection, Kissing in Manhattan around the time it came out, and I remember being slightly scandalized by it. I wouldn't have picked up Schikler's memoir if I didn't work in a bookstore. It came in, I read a review, and I was intrigued; it was something different. So I gave it a shot. And I loved it. 

The Dark Path is about Schickler's struggle reconciling his faith and his love for God with his love for girls and women. It's not the kind of crisis-of-faith memoir I was expecting. The book starts with Schickler at eight years old, and for the first few chapters I was bracing myself for what seems like the inevitable alter boy/pedophile priest anecdotes. Fortunately that didn't happen. Instead Schickler's story is about his strong faith and how he felt God in what he terms, the dark parts of life (hence the title, as well as his book, Kissing in Manhattan). 

Schickler seriously considered becoming a Jesuit priest, but the Jesuit life doesn't jive with his love for his college girlfriend or his love for short stories. What I connected with most is Schickler's notion that he would be an artistic priest. He found God in fiction.   

I'm not here to proselytize, but I really connected with this memoir. With the faith struggles, the love of High Mass and the solemnity, and feeling called to an artistic, creative life. And the memoir isn't all Church and reverence. It's funny and sad, a little sexy, and, at times, awkward and uncomfortable. But all mixed together in a really successful and satisfying way. This isn't a self-indulgent memoir or a preachy memoir. Schickler lays bare parts if his life for the reader, asking nothing more than to take it for what it is. That is the most successful tactic of this memoir. Don't let the Catholicism of the book drive you away. It's a wonderful memoir of growing up and trying to find purpose and meaning in the world. I recommend this book for anyone who enjoys memoirs, coming-of-age tales, crises of faith, love stories; it's all of the above.