One of the best job perks at the Mountain Mirror is being on the receiving end of advance copies of new books. Another is getting to be the first reader of Karin Glendenning’s library column in the Signal Mountain Mirror – I have a running list of her recommendations in my phone and try to reserve a copy at the library immediately.
I took “Joy” with me to a doctor’s appointment and was absolutely stunned after reading the first four pages, the length of the first story in this collection of 52 “very short stories.” I have never read anything by this writer and didn’t know anything about her when I opened the cheery yellow cover that says simply “Joy and 52 Other Very Short Stories.”
I’m always looking for joy, trying to be conscious of it as I skeedaddle from place to place, usually on a deadline or on the phone. Not familiar with McGraw, I expected something sunny. Some sort of easy-to-read happy tale based on the title. The first story was nothing like I thought it would be. Neither was the second, which was about the murder of a child. But her words are not only easy to read, they are impossible not to read once you start. Her characters work themselves under your skin, and you get them, really know them, right away. The fact that she only needs a brief amount of words to accomplish this is astounding to me.
“How can stories this brief be so satisfying,” says Kirkus Reviews. “McGraw deals with the profound, the dire, the mundane and the ridiculous, paying particular attention to relationships between parents and children, siblings, spouses, criminals and their victims. While some stories are meant to purely amuse, many are intense and beautiful, 53 gems that demonstrate all the things a short story can do. Wow.”
Erin has written six books, three novels and three collections of short stories. And although I feel like an idiot and a bit cheated that I didn’t know about her work sooner, I will read her every word now. And I will definitely take advantage of an opportunity to meet her and hear her read at her book release on March 6 from 6-8 p.m. at Starline Books.
Erin is practically a neighbor; she lives near Sewanee with her husband, poet Andrew Hudgins, and their dogs. Publishers Weekly says, “This quintessential collection of stories serves as an homage to the form while showcasing McGraw’s stunning talent and deep empathy for the idiosyncrasies, small joys, and despairs of human nature.” It was also included in Literary Hub’s, Big Other’s, and Emerging Writers Network’s most anticipated spring 2019 lists, and we are all invited to the book release! Yay!