I have a plane trip coming up shortly which leads me to the same old terrified concern of: What the fuck am I going to read on the flight? Four to five hours stuck in a metal box in the middle of the sky jam packed with sweaty strangers? You bet your sweet ass I shall need reading material, probably lots of it, but what, what, what?
One book that will be making the trip with me is Cryptonomicon by Stephenson, mostly because of, well… Here’s how Commander Light so eloquently put it a week or so ago: “You haven’t read that fucking book yet? WTF? Read the fucking book already!”
But another book that I got a few weeks ago and shall be making the trip with me is:
My Mistress’ Sparrow Is Dead: Great Love Stories From Chekhov To Munro, an anthology of love stories edited by Jeffrey Eugenides, and before you say anything else there, just save it. No, none of us have finished Middlesex, okay? But the book, of which all the profits go to the charity 826 Chicago, is a lovely collection of stories from authors like Joyce, Chekhov, Nabokov, Carver, and Faulkner.
“When it comes to love,” Eugenides says into the fantastic introduction, “there are a million theories to explain it. But when it comes to love stories, things are simpler. A love story can never be about full possession. The happy marriage, the requited love, the desire that never dims – these are lucky eventualities but they aren’t love stories. Love stories depend on disappointment, on unequal births and feuding families, on matrimonial boredom and at least one cold heart. Love stories, nearly without exception, give love a bad name.”
I’d really love to reprint the excellent introduction for you here. The title derives from the poet Catullus, whom Eugenides posits is the first to write about a single love affair, with a married woman, Lesbia (whose real name was Clodia). You see, in addition to a husband and a lover, Lesbia had a sparrow, the most famous sparrow in litereature, and she doted on it constantly, even after it died. And the metaphorical sparrow hovers over everyone one of these stories, in some the sparrow is very much alive, and in some, the sparrow is dead.
I’ve been lucky enough to read several of these stories before, all of them classics, and have enjoyed those that I had already read, in particular Miranda July’s “Something That Needs Nothing.” And, of course, the Carver story. And Nabokov’s “Spring In Fialta.” So I leave you with one more excerpt from the introduction to this anthology and below, a few stories. Some of them love stories, and some of them not. But they’re all a fine thing to curl up with on your Sunday afternoon.
“Read these stories… not to confirm the brutal realities of love, but to experience it’s many variegated compensatory pleasures. I offer this book as a cure for lovesickness and an andtidote to adultery. Read these love stories in the safety of your single bed. Let everybody else suffer.”
Happily I present to you here Raymond Carver’s “Beginners,” before it heavily edited by Gordon Lish into it’s much more well known form as “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.”
“Me And Miss Mandible” by Donald Barthelme.
“Little Things” by Raymond Carver.
“Timeshare” by Jeffrey Eugenides.
“Click!” by John Barth.
“Quiet Please,” by Aimee Bender, a short story I like quite a bit.
An excerpt from John Barth’s The End Of The Road.
“Great Experiment” by Jeffrey Eugenides.
“The Rememberer” by Aimee Bender.
“Tunnel Of Fish” by Kate Atkinson.
“Bull” by Aimee Bender.