February 21, 2010
Love Begins in Winter
Love Begins in Winter: Five Stories by Simon Van Booy
Fiction - Short Stories
2009 Harper Perennial
Finished on 2/16/10
Rating: 3.5/5 (Good)
Winner of the Frank O'Connor Prize 2009
On the verge of giving up—anchored to dreams that never came true and to people who have long since disappeared from their lives—Van Booy's characters walk the streets of these stark and beautiful stories until chance meetings with strangers force them to face responsibility for lives they thought had continued on without them.
I've been hearing about Simon Van Booy's writing for a few years now. Bookfool is a huge fan and has mentioned Van Booy in over a dozen blog posts. (It's probably closer to 16, but I stopped counting when I hit a dozen.) She also has a marvelous interview with Simon posted on Estella's Revenge that I encourage you to read.
Being the romantic fool that I am, I chose to start Love Begins in Winter: Five Stories during the week prior to Valentine's Day. I was happy to see that this collection is comprised of only five stories. I like to spend as much time as possible with each character, plus I find it a little difficult to remember the details of the individual stories if there are too many in a single book. This was just right. Each story stood alone and I have no trouble visualizing the setting or the elements of each plot now that several days have passed since finishing the book. As Bookfool mentioned in one of her posts, this is the sort of book that calls out to be picked up, thumbed through for a re-read of a random passage or story. And I have to agree. The writing is exquisite.
I think music is what language once aspired to be. Music allows us to face God on our own terms because it reaches beyond life.
Grief is sometimes a quiet but obsessive madness.
If there is such a thing as marriage, it takes place long before the ceremony; in a car on the way to the airport; or as a gray bedroom fills with dawn, one lover watching the other; or as two strangers stand together in the rain with no bus in sight, arms weighed down with shopping bags. You don't know then. But later you realize--that was the moment.
And always without words.
Language is like looking at a map of somewhere. Love is living there and surviving on the land.
How could two people know each other so intimately without ever having told the old stories? You get to an age where the stories don't matter anymore, and the stories once told so passionately become a tide that never quite reaches the point of being said. And there is no such thing as fate, but there are no accidents either.
I didn't fall in love with Bruno then. I had always loved him and we were always together.
Love is like life but starts before and continues after—we arrive and depart in the middle.
And so I ask myself: Why didn't I fall in love with this book? I was easily drawn into each story. And the writing truly is quite poetic.
The billowing sail of a faraway boat holding the last of the day like a nugget of gold.
The beach was dark, and the sand had been packed hard by the outgoing tide. Rain lingered; like something said but not forgotten.
Maybe this is the sort of book that requires multiple readings. I can see myself taking the book on vacation, reading one story while flying to my destination. Reading another while lounging by a pool and reading yet another while sipping a cup of coffee in a bookstore. Perhaps it's not the sort of book to read cover-to-cover. So, yes, I'll keep the book, full of its quiet, spare prose, and come back to it again sometime in the future.
Read what other bloggers have to say about Love Begins in Winter:
Simon's writing is unflinchingly honest, an exploration of the flaws of humans and the love that binds them together. Unlike a lot of readers, I enjoy short stories but am well aware that very few people know how to do them right. Simon's stories never leave you dangling or drag on long after they should end. They vary in length and each is paced with perfection. (Nancy, of Bookfoolery and Babble)
Van Booy captures the essence of what makes us human, and how love can be found in the most unexpected places. Readers who love poetry will enjoy this collection of stories which often feel like long, narrative poems. (Wendy, of Caribousmom)
Both Wendy and Nancy have done great jobs summarizing each story, so be sure to click on the links to read their reviews.