Sunday, February 03, 2008

Happy, happy, happy all the time

With a title like You Must be This Happy to Enter, you might expect bucket loads of bitter irony. This third collection of stories by Elizabeth Crane is actually filled with laugh out loud humor, strange turns of events and stories that look realistically at the world, while maintaining the belief that life is worth living.

These stories are some of the best I have read in years, and remind me of another favorite, Ted Chiang. Like Chiang, Crane sets up bizarre situations (a woman goes through life with words on her head, a woman becomes a zombie and is put on a reality TV show, a couple's child turns into Ethan Hawke and so on) and then sees how they react. These people find that yes, their lives are strange, but they are still good and worth living.

A major theme of the book is realizing that you are different (usually bizarrely so) but living with it rather than ranting, collapsing or withdrawing. Don't worry, Crane doesn't go all Free to Be You and Me on you. No, it manages to portray a sincere belief in goodness without becoming cloying or cheap. I think she manages this by focusing on the individuals and not trying to present lessons. The humor doesn't hurt either. As I mentioned this is a funny book.

One of the better, albeit more sad and touching than funny stories in the book is called Promise. Its a list of promises that a hopeful mother is making to her eventual child. You can read it here.

Since this is a short story collection and they tend to be spotty, I planned to read a few strories each night, but I found myself powering through it all at once. I guess I need to get her other two collections.

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