Yes! I finished it. I've been reading The Secret Lives of People in Love, by Simon Van Booy, for several weeks now. I found myself stashing this book of short stories away and only allowing myself brief dives into it. I couldn't allow myself to get completely engrossed or else I might've downed it one giant gulp. I couldn't have savored it that way. I read each story as if it were a universe of its own, and it was gorgeous.
You know how sometimes you can watch a movie and think, "Wow, that's classic." Not that it might become a classic (or maybe it will), but you think, "That's done with real, unadulterated style." Or maybe an actress on TV reminds you of "old Hollywood," all glitz and glamour and class.
The Secret Lives of People in Love is written with pure, unadulterated style and immeasurable class. The words are pretty, the stories flow, it's not pretentious or overly self-aware. It's just good storytelling. Storytelling at its best, I would say. Sometimes they were sweet, sometimes they were the slightest bit twisted, sometimes they were wonderfully bizarre. But they were always well rounded, solid, and felt complete.
Some of my favorite passages:
"And in the early hours of the morning, as he stopped breathing, a recently married nurse who had been watching him since dawn took a strawberry from the heavy yellow bowl and gently slipped it between his lips. In a dull office overlooking the Seine, the nurse's husband was thinking about her elbows, and how they make tiny hollows in the grass as she reads."
--From "The Reappearance of Strawberries"
"Although I knew she would have invited the waiter up to her room had he been sitting where I was and looking at her as I was, I didn't care. I wanted to stretch into the ridge of her spine and complete her back, as water freezes in the crevice of a rock."
--From "Snow Falls and Then Disappears"
"Life can unmoor so many feelings; it is a relief we sleep through it.
Night unravels the day and reinvents it for the first time.
We may mean nothing to time, but to each other we are kings and queens, and the world is a wild benevolent garden filled with chance meetings and unexplained departures."
--From "Everything is a Beautiful Trick"
"That night Serge lay awake beneath a full moon in his bed. His curtains were ivory squares that washed his crumbling apartment white, turning his furniture to old wedding cake."
It's hard to say what this book is about. It's about people with ordinarily extraordinary lives. And I think what I love most is reflected in the last quote, from "Apples." Van Booy has a way of capturing moments and images that seem completely realized and important and poetic. As I read, in fact, I was reminded of moments in my own life that might've slipped from me until that point, but in their own right now seem integral and beautiful. The stories evoked memories that hadn't been with me in a very long time, and I feel that by reading this book I've inherited some memories that aren't really mine, but that will stay with me just as if I'd created them myself.
If you attempt no other short stories this year, or next, or the next...pick up this book. It is published by Turtle Point Press, and as it certainly should, it's garnered some hefty praise from the L.A. Times, Newsday and Publisher's Weekly. I'm also thrilled that Estella's Revenge was one of the first to review it, and Nancy did a great job on her review and her interview with Simon Van Booy.
This is one of only a small handful of books I've deemed worthy of a perfect 10 this year.
*Sorry for the lack of pretty pictures; Blogger's being wonky.