For anyone who was unaware, while undertaking most of this project, I’ve been located out in Seattle. I have come to adore this city, but as I read more and more Michigan literature I become sick for home. I am excited to announce I am returning to my home state in early June, and hopefully will be able to indulge in all the great literary events going on in the mitten, rather than just writing about them from afar. Michigan books forever!
-Something to keep a look out for next year: A Rally of Writers
I’m stoked to say Literati Bookstore has officially opened and is a huge win for Ann Arbor. After watching Shaman Drum and Borders close, Ann Arbor (and the state of Michigan in general) was due for a new great bookstore. Literati is a two-story testament to the timeless importance of having a local, independent bookshop. It greatly excites me to see how fast they are getting involved in the community. I can’t wait to stop in when I make my triumphant return to Michigan in June.
Highlights (Personal Favorites)
-The Inventor, 1972
-The Solutions To Brian’s Problem
-King Cole’s American Salvage
Bonnie Jo Campbell presents this collection of short stories with the type of familiar, neighborly, candid prose that is impossible to create disingenuously. That is not to say the sentences are terse or conversational, but more so a testament to the ease which we can feel acquainted with the characters and their situations. While we only glean miniscule portions of the tumultuous lives of her characters, (mostly in the Kalamazoo area) it is remarkably easy to feel as if the characters are people we have grown up near, embraced, dated, loathed, or admired from afar. Each story is told with the sincerity of a barstool buddy or gossipy mail carrier, and yet between tangible dialogue and very imaginable descriptions of Michigan’s landscape, lie eloquent passages of colloquial Midwestern brisance.
Admittedly, I’m using the word brisance liberally, but I think the merit of that choice in diction lays twofold. Firstly, Campbell’s stories have the type of fierce, brutal snapshots into the human experience that shatter our expectations. These insights are brilliant and explosive, awakening deep feelings of awe, confusion, sympathy, empathy, frustration, fear, and (sometimes) elation simultaneously. Secondly, while dismantling our preconceptions, Campbell provides passages of writing filled with breaking points. While we reassess things as conscious readers, Campbell’s characters go through pivotal moments that force them to do deal with monumental moments and the immediate consequences.
Yet, there is nothing venomous about these acmes. Campbell can make moments of violence and dereliction seem perfectly rational. She can turn meth-head femme fatales into seraphic, desirous sirens, and make drunk, truculent men appear blatantly bewildered, terrified, and vulnerable. She captures moments of complete control and the utter, inexplicable loss of it, finding the perplexing point in between.