Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Drinking Coffee Elsewhere by Z.Z. Packer

This was one of my buy a book for a dollar library purchases (sorry, no author royalties in that, I know) and it's a book I've already read, but just figured would be useful to have around for teaching purpose. But I got sucked into reading all the stories again and liked them even better this time around. This happens a lot with short stories for me. I often feel mildly about them on first reading and have them grow on me. I think everyone going around saying how the world should be reading short stories since we have no time and can fit them in has it wrong. I seem to take longer with stories, and in fact need time to have them work on me.

Anyway, I just loved this description of physical action (something I've been paying mind to much more ever since one of my students did a presentation on it) in Packer's story "Brownies":

"That did it. The girls in my troop turned elastic: Drea and Elise doubled up on one another like inextricably entwined kites; Octavia slapped her belly; Janice jumped straight up in the air, then did it again, as if to slam-dunk her own head. They could not stop laughing. No one had laughed so hard since a boy named Martez had stuck a pencil in the electric socket and spent the whole day with a strange grin on his face."

Uncontrolled laughter, like uncontrolled crying, is incredibly hard to describe. Packer uses all the old tricks--metaphor, simple physical description, and exposition to make it work.

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