Wednesday, June 15, 2011
It had gone on too long. "Robin Black," I kept hearing. "Robin Black's short stories." Urged to read Black by writing friends whose taste I trust, I finally and at long last did, savoring a story or two from her debut collection, "If I Loved You, I Would Tell You This," each day, thinking about her characters in crowded places or while almost alone on this or another strange and unfamiliar street.
Eleven stories written over the course of a decade. Eleven stories both immaculately precise and involvingly odd, so that we know these people but can't always guess what they will do, can hear the hurry of their exasperation, feel the claustrophobia of their secrets, but can't protect them from their own determined, isolating brokenheartedness.
Black's characters do wrong, but are not bad people. They bury things to protect themselves or another, but protection is thin and wears quickly. They ache, but their ache isn't always rightly answered. They live complicated inner lives inside ordinary circumstances. I found them compelling. I found Black smart and succinct and lacerating and funny.
Her dialogue is some of the best I've read. Her stories wedge inside and stay.