Tuesday, January 18, 2005

I tagged along with some friends to a wedding this weekend (check out what the groom wore under his kilt) and had some time while they were attending to picture taking and bridesmaid duties to read When the Nines Roll Over and Other Stories by David Benioff. You'll recall I picked his 25th Hour as one of the best books I read last year and this one might make this year's list. Benioff shows off a range of characters and situations, everyone from a record producer in Los Angeles to a young Russian soldier in Chechnya, making each full and believable. There's a quote in the first story that I feel captures the overall theme of the whole collection: "A few boys about high school age set off a round of fireworks. Everyone watched the rockets hurtle into the dark sky above the brightly lit street, higher and higher and higher, disappearing into the blackness, everyone still watching, their faces upturned to the nighttime sky, waiting for the rockets to burst, for petals of blue flame to drift slowly downward. Everyone watched for a full minute, until it became certain that the rockets were duds." He seems to understand perfectly that futility - the high hopes we send off and watch expectantly only to have them fail to deliver. By describing the nuances of each experience through such a wide range of characters he makes them distinctive and affecting so the stories avoid feeling repetitive despite the similar theme.

I'm seriously going to have to rethink my position on short stories if I keep reading such great collections.

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