Recent Readings: Short Stories Rule

Making some headway through the reading list on my last post. Unfortunately, our small-town library system doesn’t carry most of these books.

I loved Danielle Evans’ “Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self” (heartbreaking and funny stories), and checked out Aimee Bender’s “The Color Master,” which is waiting for me when I return from vacation.

JGavin (2)

My favorite though on that list (so far) is”Middle Men” (stories) by Jim Gavin.

If you grow up on the west coast, especially in the desert (as I did), you are inundated with media images that have nothing to do with your own experience. I never had a ‘white Christmas’ or a snowball fight. Was never in a snowstorm. Didn’t live on a tree-lined street (unless you count a few palm trees). Never experienced ‘the change of seasons.’

And I didn’t mind not experiencing that stuff. I just didn’t understand it. “I couldn’t relate,” as they say.

And so now, especially after living on the East Coast for 6 years and now in the Midwest for 5, when I find something – someone – I can relate to, it’s a delight.

Like my coworker Lisa. We live and work in central Ohio, both married to nice Ohio boys. But we grew up 40 minutes away from each other in southern California, and are only 4 months apart in age. (Although she grew up in the San Fernando Valley and I grew up in Riverside. 40 minutes might as well have been 400 miles for the cultural differences). But she and I can relate.

And so reading “Middle Men” was relatable and enjoyable, not to mention it was hilarious and brilliantly written. It’s set in SoCal mostly Long Beach and the outskirts of LA, with a couple detours out to Riverside (where I grew up).

It wasn’t just the locales that made the stories hit home for me, it was the specifics and the tone – easygoing, straightforward, self-deprecating.

I haven’t lived in SoCal since I was 22, so Gavin referenced many things that I’d long forgotten (Wally George!) that only people in a certain location in a certain period of time would understand. I just don’t find that much in what I read.

I don’t know if it’s that there aren’t many writers of my age and from my locale or if I just haven’t read them.

Some day I’ll write my stories about growing up in the desert. Once all the San Francisco stories are done.

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