A few days ago, I met up with Linda and laughing told her about my obsessive moving around of bookshelves in an effort to throw everything out and contrastingly, my recently becoming the recipient of things to review. I explained that as a writer and chatter box on a variety of outlets~ twitter, google+, blah blah, my phone, the bar and your terrace, I’ve opened myself up to being asked to review things like gadgets, apps, food and books.
To be honest, I told Linda that I didn’t really know how to respond to these requests because I didn’t always have a suitable publication outlet. Linda was matter of fact, “You’re kidding me? You’ve got a web site, put it up there if you can’t fit it into an article.” Genius. So thanks to a coffee convo, I’ve added Reviews to my home page and a Your Stuff category to the blog because that is what is going to be. My thoughts on your stuff. And I can’t think of any where better to start than with Catherine McNamara’s 2013 book Pelt and Other Stories ….
Back in 2012, author Catherine McNamara sent me her witty Divorce, Milan Style, which had me cackling like a maniac. I knew from the brief description of Pelt – “short stories, restless characters, different continents” – that I was in for a different kind of ride.
McNamara is a Story Teller, and Pelt is an amalgamation of all her clever writing techniques. 18 stories (collected from various publications), and tens of personalities, McNamara airdrops you into intimate moments and ongoing conversations, creating the kinetic feeling of previously knowing the characters yet at the same time completely foreign to the scene, delicious juxtaposition of comforting and jarring.
Normally orthodoxly observant to order, I read her stories according to title: Nathalie, Pelt, Stromboli, The Coptic Bride, Gorgeous Eyes, you get it. Because there is no sequence. Each story is its own entity, its own world and its own specific moment- so defined and curated that you are literally jumping into the midst of an ambulance, an argument or a bad vacation. And then you close the book.
In brief, the collection is an introspection on personal lives and habits of relationships. In more words, each story is about uncomfortableness– whether yours as reader because you are forced into the recesses of personal intimacy that we only get to see in our own homes or perhaps at one of those uncomfortable dinner parties where two obviously loathing spouses pantomime Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf?, or her characters who all touch slightly on insensitive as they tell each tale, creating an almost incredulous atmosphere of both rich, compelling storytelling and abrupt callousness within the tale. I found myself wondering what I would do, when I wasn’t shouting at some of the characters.
Armed with uncanny ability of capturing gender dynamics (internal and external) from both sides of the looking glass, it is as if McNamara is consciously aware of her own contemporary reincarnations- that she seems to write into each story. And she probably is, accompanied by an overly -stamped passport as well– 18 stories, 18 city/towns, 4 continents– and combined with her roller coaster writing style (peaks, nadirs, turns), I feel like inviting myself out out to dinner with her in Torino or Mondello or Bari just so that I can be airdropped into one of those kinetic moments for an evening. . . or a chapter. . .