‘I called, and John was very sweet, asking how I was feeling, how the memorial service had gone, how my father was. And I told him all that and then I knew I couldn’t tell him the rest and that I couldn’t marry a man I couldn’t tell this story too.’ ( Amy Bloom, Love is not a Pie)
I remember reading this story and going ‘tingly’ at the liberating insightfulness of this revelation. The narrator has just attended her mother’s funeral and is responding to the ‘supportive’ telephone inquiry of her fiance. And in verbalising her response, the narrator recognises the limits of her relationship with this very conventional man and ends the relationship over the phone: there and then!
For the narrator feels the distance between her world and his; between her words and his..and this haitus exposes the emotional abyss that exists beneath the shiny acceptability of their relationship. Bloom manages to encapsulate this emotional distance between the characters through this looming awareness of story telling as a means of literally ‘passing on’ who we are, and where we would hope to go. Anecdotes are far more than ‘just’ stories, they are actaully a means of shaping and rehsaping who and what we are.
My clumsy paraphrasing just serves to highlight how briliantly incisive Amy Bloom is at recognising those make or break moments of reciprocity in the middle of our suddenly awkward lives. . Indeed the ability to reciprocate ( or not) is probably Bloom’s central concern in her short stories. Her two collections of stories are nothing short of miraculous and is probably only writer I have ever taught who stuns her readers into silence.
‘ the bed’s made up.I’ll be up before you in the morning.
‘How do you know? ‘
‘I don’t.’ She came down three steps. I’m pretending I know.’ ( Night Vison)
Mother and son have been estranged for years. The mother’s act of improvised knowing about the son’s daily habits is almost too painfully honest to read. It carries all the weight of 11 years of yearning in just one phrase. How much Bloom must listen to know this? This a lonely monologue striving to reach out and grow again into dialogue.
Amy Bloom is a truly adult writer. She dares to know and say things society and individuals prefer to bury deep. And what she knows, she knows with a tenderness that few can reach and I think we all yearn for in secret.
Probably the best short story writer on the planet!
How to analyse a text quickly!
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