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How Some People Like Their Eggs

Sean Lovelace

 
" A doctor told Paige she had leukemia, a disease where the white cells run amuck and drink too much cheap beer and urinate in public and hang from motel balconies and generally harm themselves and others like teenagers on spring break in Florida …"

Reviewed by Tania Hershman

If I was Sean Lovelace, I might begin my review in the persona of Humphrey Bogart, Snoopy or a tree that grows coffee pots, enticing you in with the comic and seemingly preposterious, and then, once I have ensnared you, hitting you with something far darker, leaving an indelible impression. Such are Lovelace's short short stories.  Don't be fooled by his pretty-sounded surname, he is not going to let you off easily.Thank goodness.

How Some People Like Their Eggs is an excellent example of the impact of the order of stories in a collection. I began the first story, Meteorite, having never read anything by Lovelace. The first paragraph tells of the "only recorded meteorite to actually hit a human being", the human in question being "a woman with hair wrapped high like a hornet's nest". I wondered where this might go. Lovelace lulls you gently for a moment, then leukemia is mentioned and you are suddenly aware that you are not where you expected, that this is not funny. But Lovelace does not wallow in pathos. This story is deeply real, made up of aborted attempts at conversation, apparent tangents that are not tangential ("two sorority girls stroll by looking absolutely themselves"), the most ridiculous ("The Ten Commandments for Cancer Survival") and an ending which, in saying so little, says everything. 

What beginning with this story does is set the tone for the other 9 stories, the longest of which is six (smaller than normal) pages. The reader now expects oddities not just for comedy's sake, but accompanied by a punch in the gut, a more disturbing message. 

It may be a cliche, but Lovelace does more in a few pages than many a "short" story writer I have encountered. I think it would be a disservice to attempt to precis any of the short shorts here, and a shame to spoil the delight of coming to them fresh. I will say that flash fiction lends itself extremely well to being re-read again and again to probe it further. I read the book straight through, then dipped in and out, and then read it again in a different order, the first story and then the last, the second and the second-to-last, working my way to the middle of the book. 

Lovelace's writing makes excellent use of repetition: in Meteorite, for example, there are three mentions in three pages of cups, paper and plastic, a symbol, perhaps, of emptiness and disposability?; in Charlie Brown's Diary: Excerpts, each diary entry begins with the same bizarre phrase: "I wake, and hear the birds coughing".  His openings can bowl you over: "My girlfriend was home from work, at least two hours late, and three inches shorter, which meant it had been a tough day." (Molasses).

There were one or two stories that didn't leave as indelible a mark as the rest, and I wondered if perhaps it was because I didn't follow certain American pop cuture references, or whether I had read them all too quickly without pausing, or simply because taste is subjective and I don't think I have ever enjoyed or been moved by every single story in a collection. 

Sean Lovelace is an author whose work I shall definitely seek out, now that I've been formally introduced. Lovelace is a professor of creative writing, and I envy his students, having a teacher whose own writing is one of the clearest examples of creativity I've had the pleasure to review.  
   

Read an excerpt from one of the stories from this collection on Rose Metal Press's website

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Tania Hershman is the editor of the Short Review. Her short story collection, The White Road and Other Stories, is published by Salt Modern Fiction and was commended by the 2009 Orange Award for New Writers.
Tania's other Short Reviews: Etgar Keret & Samir el-Youssef "Gaza Blues"

Melvin J. Bukiet "A Faker's Dozen"

Rusty Barnes "Breaking it Down"

Roy Kesey "All  Over"

John Klima (ed) "Logorrhea: Good Words Make Good Stories"

Kelley Eskridge "Dangerous Space"

18 Lies and 3 Truths: StoryQuarterly 2007 Annual

Aimee Bender "Wilful Creatures"

Paddy O'Reilly "The End of the World"

Annie Clarkson "Winter Hands"

Yannick Murphy "In a Bear's Eye"

Declan Meade (ed) "Let's Be Alone Together"

Lise Erdrich "Night Train"

Interfictions: An Anthology of Interstitial Writing

Alexandra Chasin "Kissed By"

Tamar Yellin "Kafka in Bronteland"

Mary Miller "Big World"

Ali Smith "The First Person and Other Stories"

Chris Beckett "The Turing Test"

Petina Gappah "An Elegy for Easterly"

 

Publisher: Rose Metal Press

Publication Date: 2009

Paperback/Hardback? Paperback

First collection?Yes

Awards: Winner, Third Annual Rose Metal Press Short Short Chapbook Contest

Author bio: Sean Lovelace is a professor of creative writing at Ball State University. He writes fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction. Recent publications include Willow Springs, Diagram, Sonora Review, and Black Warrior Review. His works have won several awards, including the prestigious Crazyhorse Fiction Prize. He blogs at seanlovelace.com. He also likes to run, far.

Read an interview with Sean Lovelace


Buy this book (used or new) from:

The Author's Recommended Bookseller: Rose Metal Press

Powell's 

And...don't forget your local booksellers and independent book shops! Visit  IndieBound.org to find an independent bookstore near you in the US


If you liked this book you might also like....

Claudia Smith "The Sky is a Well"

Aimee Bender "Wilful Creatures"

Rusty Barnes "Breaking it Down"

Matt Bell "How the Broken Lead the Blind

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