The News from Spain: 7 Variations on a Love Story/Joan Wickersham: Reflections

Saturday, July 6, 2013

I'd wanted to read this intermingling collection of short stories for a long time. It has sat here, a tease—bought when I bought Elizabeth Graver (The End of the Point) and Jessica Keener (Night Swim). Set aside for a special time.

I was already familiar with the power and inventiveness of Joan Wickersham's voice. Her The Suicide Index would have been included as a stellar example of the memoir form in Handling the Truth had I read it in time (as it is, I list the book on my additional recommended reading list here, on the blog). I had, in addition, read the reviews of the story collection. And yet I was utterly unprepared for the impact The News from Spain would have on me. I was staggered after reading these seven stories through, each story (brilliantly) called "The News from Spain." I sat there on the couch, unable to will myself to stand. Arrows through my soul. Ache for the world and the women of the world, who love and want and hurt and try and wound and are left wounded.

The News from Spain is a sandblasting of the heart.

Readers comment on Wickersham's precision. That is the word, in a nutshell. Nothing escapes Wickersham's eye. No small detail. No minor hurt that becomes a remembered hurt that becomes the defining truth in a marriage, or in a mother-daughter relationship, or in an unrequited affair. Love is so beautiful, some of the time, and love is so brutal, much of the time. It is the war that wants only peace but keeps finding reasons to war. It is the thing that saves us. Wickersham understands it all. Her readers fall to their knees.

How twisted and smart Wickersham is, christening each short story with the same name. Makes it kind of impossible to pull them apart, to speak of them individually, and that is part of Wickersham's point. So I will just say that there's a story in this book about a dancer who has fallen ill, paralyzed. She is cared for by a young man in love with another young man, and their relationship deepens while her husband, still key in the dance company, is away, having an affair with a young dancer. The dancer tries to live on, tries to be smart, tries to be witty, even, and the caretaker tries to be whom he thinks she wants him to be—available and invisible by turns. This story devastated me. It has one of the most unforeseen and sensational endings of any story I have read.

And it is matched by the other stories in this work of art.


Sarah Laurence said...

Thanks for an intro to an author new to me. Today I'm reading and enjoying The End of the Point, another recommendation of yours.

Serena said...

"The News from Spain is a sandblasting of the heart" is enough for me.

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