American InnovationsThursday, April 30, 2015
|Photo Courtesy of Amazon|
Rivka Galchen is full of juicy words that stare into your chest. They tell you things about yourself that you somehow knew were there all along - things that were buried in the recesses of the brain. Admittedly, I found myself drawn to this book because of the interesting artwork. I mean, really, that balancing act is a mess waiting to happen.* However, it also gracefully describes my sentiments regarding American Innovations: a beautiful mess. This book of short stories contains characters that are emotionally disconnected, disillusioned, and have distorted perceptions of reality. Characters are plagued by malaise. It is messy and beautiful and soulful. In these short stories, Rivka Galchen delves deep into what we all strive to understand: the strangeness of what we simply call living.
While most stories contain a protagonist with some emotional disconnect, others have elements of the bizarre - one woman sprouts a third breast on her back, while another has all her furniture march out of her apartment. However, each story contains a character with some quirk many of us would label bizarre. We see a woman with her marriage off center receiving a wrong number call for take out, accepting the order, and then berating herself for not telling the truth and/or fulfilling the order. We see a little girl notice all the little Beautiful and Horrible things in the world as she endures her first crush. Another woman is caught in a love affair then later convinced that her lover was result of time travel. Relationships balance on a string in this book.
Furthermore, I am a big fan of how deep the words cut. Galchen's writing style makes you feel everything with the characters. Sadness. Frustration. Realization. And sometimes you are just baffled. Below I have included one of my favorite excerpts, from the story "Wild Berry Blue":
"...what I see is a tattoo, most of which I can't see. A starched white long-sleeve shirt covers most of it. But a little blue-black lattice of it I can see - a fragment like ancient elaborate metalwork, that creeps down all the way, past the wrist, to the back of the hand, kinking up and over a very plump vein. The vein is so distended I imagine laying my cheek on it in order to feel the blood pulse and flow, to maybe even hear it. Beautiful. So beautiful."
I will admit that if you do not like stories that investigate the strangeness of being alive then you are unlikely to enjoy American Innovations. However, if you constantly like a peep at other worlds and perceptions, if you enjoy seeing the workings of the emotions of others', the search for resolution in life, then American Innovations is the best choice for your next reading session.
*Also, Rivka Galchen's name flows so nicely off the tongue. Is that a bad reason to read a book? I think not.
P.S. American Innovations does contain some adult language, if that is something you wish to avoid. I personally love to see all sides of humanity in my effort to understand the world we live in, but everyone's heart is different!