Delicate Edible Birds
Voice, 2009. $24. 320 pages.
After my Vancouver trip, I raved about the book I read on the plane, Lauren Groff’s first novel The Monsters of Templeton. I had already picked up her short story collection, Delicate Edible Birds, and was eager to read it after I finished MoT. All I can say is, Wow. Groff is an incredibly talented storyteller and already I’m waiting for her next installment.
I have to admit I bought DEB on a misreading. I thought one of her stories, “Blythe,” about two female poets, was actually titled “Bysshe,” as in Percy Bysshe Shelley. I assumed it would be some too-clever, self-conscious meditation on poetry. The real story is so much better. Watching Blythe self-destruct was intensely moving and provocative. I can’t say I wept after reading any of these stories, but there is a delicious ache that comes after reading good writing that has more staying power than an immediate visceral reaction.
One thing I loved about these stories is that they were just that: stories. When I think of short stories, I tend to think of them as vignettes: a scene or a character sketch. But these stories have a plot arch; they have a beginning, middle, and end; and the characters are different at the end than they were at the beginning. Good writing, to me, makes me want to sit down with a pad of paper afterwards and just write. I submitted my first short story for publication this week, only two weeks after finishing DEB. I don’t like to make causal statements, but needless to say I was inspired by this group of stories.
Some highlights (for me-the entire book was lovely): the aforementioned “Blythe”; “L. DeBard and Aliette”; “The Wife of the Dictator”; and “Delicate Edible Birds.” Great collection.