For a good two years living in New York City, I was bitter each time I would see a couple out in public holding hands or making out, because I was single—eating alone, going to the cinema or walking through Central Park by myself—and the only place I felt somewhat saved was in my headphones, listening to the tracks of music that pierced emotional truths in me that I couldn’t discern or fully explain because of the tinge of loneliness I felt. Until one day, with an attempt at selfless maturity, I stood behind my perception, with both hands against its wall, and pushed it down so that a different light could wash over these lovebirds I’d witness on a daily basis.
My attempt was to experience the brief interlude of love that came between them, and actually appreciate that moment of splendor. Someday This Will Be Funny, the new short story collection by Lynne Tillman, is precisely the kind of book that I’d wished was on my iPod or in my bag during those long walks through the park, when I needed a mirror lifted, so I might see the dimensions and shadows of a non-linear, non-static existence—and be reminded that emotional truths are as round and hollow as a blown balloon, both empty and filled in equal parts.
Tillman’s collection is made up of twenty-two short stories, each probing away at the unsettled minds of the narrators that tell them. Her Stories are built with precise and eloquent language, making any serious reader question and evaluate the capabilities of prose—the inventive wordplay, blurring genre, immaculate and imperfect characters. This collection reminds me of a playlist in which any track could be played, admired, and used as a sort of vehicle to experience a sentiment one might not know he or she possesses; taut like the strings of a guitar; fluid like the running water in a creek; and tender, too, in the way all memorable literature is, when a reader catches a glimpse of his own reflection staring back at him from the words on the page.
While reading Lynne’s stories I was reminded of a quote by Flannery O’Connor: “There may never be anything new to say, but there is always a new way to say it, and since, in art, the way of saying a thing becomes part of what is said, every work of art is unique and requires fresh attention.” How accurate to compare Someday This Will Be Funny with what O’Connor suggests, proving that through literary history there’s always a dialog between masters, almost as if the existence of prose and poetry were housed in a continuous discourse on the nature of art and human condition.
Particular favorites of mine that left an immediate impression are: the opening story, ‘That’s How Wrong My Love Is’, in which the close observation of cooing winter doves on a window ledge reveals the self-reflecting rumination of the narrator’s loneliness; ‘A Greek Story’, a three-page tale in which deception and language revel in a cultural episode; ‘Love Sentence’, one of, if not the, most gorgeous investigation on the semantic layers of a four-letter word that drives us all.
Lynne Tillman is a literary master. Someday This Will Be Funny is scheduled to come out at the end of this month, and she’ll be reading at Barnes and Noble at Union Square on March 31 at 7pm for our 12th Street Online launch. Please take the opportunity to come by and pick up a copy of this excellent collection.