Wednesday, October 01, 2008

The Pharmacist's Mate by Amy Fusselman

I quite admired this small sad memoir about the death of the author's father (paired with her fertility treatments and pregnancy struggles). Lately I seem to prefer my nonfiction really spare (I'm also reading the similarly spare Two Kinds of Decay by Sarah Manguso). And this seems the kind of book that small presses exist to do (it's put out by McSweeney's)--too many small presses simply pick up books that are what the big presses publish but not quite as good. Small presses seem most successful when instead they pick up books that big presses weren't willing to take a chance on not because they weren't quite good enough but because they didn't seem marketable enough. And this is a pretty depressing book that's less than a hundred pages long, is poetic in its voice, and blends in the writing of a non-professional (the dad). And for all those reasons probably seemed risky to big publishers (if they ever saw it, I don't know). But it's really lovely and, despite what might be a pregnancy at the end, properly mournful. Elegaic, I suppose the reviewers would say.

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