The Coffins of Little Hope/Timothy Schaffert: Reflections

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

These words from The Washington Post's Ron Charles drew me to The Coffins of Little Hope:
The Coffins of Little Hope is like an Edward Gorey cartoon stitched in pastel needlepoint. Its creepiness scurries along the edges of these heartwarming pages like some furry creature you keep convincing yourself you didn't see.
You're in, right?  You want to know more?  I bought the book, I got in and I stayed, from the very first line:
I still use a manual typewriter (a 1953 Underwood portable, in a robin's-egg blue) because the soft pip-pip-pip of the typing of keys on a computer keyboard doesn't quite fit with my sense of what writing sounds like.
 .... to the last:
You were young only minutes ago.
Reading the pages in between was like watching the lights of a carnival go on—the hurly burly commotion of color, the hyperkinetic blink of possibility, the flavorful oddness of a sui generis cast of characters.  There's Essie Myles, an 83-year-old obituary writer for the local, small-town paper.  There's the possible kidnapping of a possible daughter (yes, that's right, we never know for absolute certain if the kidnapped daughter is a scam or a true loss).  There's the final installment of a famed young adult book that's being printed by Essie's press.  Parts of that book get leaked (or are those parts the real book?)  Gentle weirdnesses come and go (but have they left forever?).  These small-town people face all kinds of trouble (or they make it up), and Schaeffert can't say no to the sweet tangent. 

It's a wild bob and weave.  It's profoundly and preposterously well-imagined.  There are lines here, plenty of them, that most writers would give their polished eye tooth to lay a claim to.  Taken together, Coffins is a delight—a book that you cannot wrangle with.  Just let it happen to you.  Stumble off, dazed.



Becca said...

You had me with the quote about the typewriter :)

Lilian Nattel said...

i like the last line.

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