Nov 7, 2004

A Private State, stories by Charlotte Bacon

I am a blubbering idiot in the face of this woman's writing. I am reduced to gasping in awe, to quoting huge passages verbatim, or quick small lines. These stories are amazing. Simply amazing. More character in three lines than in a whole Dan Brown, ie: "But Mrs. Prichard can't remember the last time she turned down a chance to get mad: she's a woman who writes letters to congressmen. A woman who picks up trash on the street and puts it in bins . . ." (from Mrs. Pritchard and Mr. Watson) or "Last fall, her husband Frank Marten, a veterinarian who hunts, began renting across town." (from Live Free or Die). A veterinarian who hunts - what succinct description of this man! And place, and small detail, and human emotion. She never puts a beautiful face on the ugly, never pretends there is an easy clean answer. Almost every story ends abrubtly, but as it is meant to do. There are no neat packages here. We understand these characters have been there before we arrived, and will go on, in their bumbling stumbling way, after we've gone. And we're left holding our breath, that reaction to supreme beauty, that waiting for the ordinary so we remember to breath.

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