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Sunday, July 10, 2016

Try a Different Path Once in a While

Nothing has been planted along our old driveway. What grows there is of Nature’s choosing. Like any more carefully landscaped drive, however, its flowers change with the season’s advance. Just now it is the turn of gaudy wild sweet peas, happy daisies, bright yellow St. John’s-wort, delicate, pale bladder campion, and the sweet lavender blue rays of chicory. Early in the morning, greeting the sun, chicory flowers are both wide-eyed and eye-catching. Unfortunately, I left my camera's memory card in the card reader at the shop so couldn't photograph the chicory this morning as I'd planned.

Monday inserts (after original posting:

A woods road presents a very different aspect, mostly green now that the canopy has filled in and the blooming of spring ephemerals long past. But there are ferns, and you may find the wild rose-like petals that promise blackberries in the near future. Little wild geraniums, storksbill and cranesbill, seem to be happy anywhere, in the sun or in the shade.

Beaches, bogs, wandering creeks, lakesides – each habitat offers something different out of nature's variety. The same diversity holds true with fiction. Each genre, in all different lengths, presents a different kind of reading experience, all of them valuable.

Two of my Michigan guest authors in July are writers of adult fiction, and both their new books are short story collections. Some bookstore customers, I know, resist short stories, not wanting to meet and have to get to know new characters in every new “chapter,” as it were, but Kelly Fordon and L.E. (Lynn) Kimball have demolished that objection by linking their stories, so that the overall effect in each case is very similar to that a reader experiences in reading a novel.

Garden for the Blind, by Kelly Fordon, is set in the contrasting worlds of suburban materialism and urban decay of southeast Michigan. (Here is a good review.) Alice can perhaps be thought of as the central character, for it is Alice we meet first, as a child, in “The Great Gatsby Party,” and it is Alice and her daughter’s story, “Garden for the Blind,” that conclude the volume, though the cast of characters as a whole is large and diverse. This is a book that overcomes your aesthetic distance (and, at times, moral repugnance) gradually, pulling you in slowly and almost imperceptibly, until you catch your breath, literally, having arrived at empathy.

L.E. Kimball’s Seasonal Roads is set in the Upper Peninsula and features three generations of U.P. women. I reviewed this book in the spring but want to reiterate here the sense the stories give of a longer work, what some would call a “nonlinear novel.”

Wayne State University, the publisher of both these books, does not publish novels. They do publish short story collections. But what I’m telling you is that if you’re a reader of novels who generally eschews short stories, you need to give these two WSU titles the benefit of the doubt. Either one is an excellent introduction to the high literary quality of today’s Michigan fiction. The authors are coming to Dog Ears Books not only because they want to come but because I am able to recommend their work without qualification.

Kelly Fordon is coming to Dog Ears Books on Thursday, July 14, from 1-3 p.m., to read from her book and sign books for customers.

Lynn Kimball will be here the following week, on Friday, July 22, from 1-3 p.m. She also will read excerpts and sign books.

I hope all local readers of fiction will decide to give these short story authors a hearing and reading. It is a privilege to have them come to Northport.


Dawn said...

Wonderful. The wildflowers and the Michigan authors.

P. J. Grath said...

I'll have to come back another day to add in a photo of the chicory, Dawn.

Anonymous said...

I am really looking forward to these next two authors you are presenting, Pamela. It is my impulse to try to gauge if the writers seem to "match" their work. I am often surprised. Bonnie Jo Campbell is the best example I can think of for that. Thanks for the fun! Deb Whitney

P. J. Grath said...

Well, Deb, I haven't met Kelly before, either, so Thursday will be my first time. Her book really got to me, though.