A colleague of mine shudders to remember that when she was an undergraduate she wrote on a course evaluation that the professor wore ugly shoes. As a professor herself now, she knows how terrible it is to have herself critiqued.
Reviews have started to come in on It’s Not Going to Kill You, and Other Stories, and when I saw I had one from Booklist I had to read it cross-eyed the first go round, not even reading sentence by sentence but just looking for negative words to jump out. Boring. Incompetent. Pointless. I feel so helpless in such moments, “ugly shoes” is the least of my worries.
Lucky for me, here’s the actual review:
“There are rules about how much story you can fit into a short work of fiction, and Flanagan (The Usual Mistakes, 2005) throws them all out the window in her new collection. Like holographic slivers, her stories contain a breadth and scope usually found in novels, telling whole lifetimes in the span of after-dinner coffee. Thematically, her stories are linked by the hard-earned realization that the most important moments, those that change our lives, are the ones that seem the most inconsequential at the time. These are tales, therefore, of transformation, in which cardboard guitars and jelly donuts crack open the chrysalises of Flanagan’s characters to let them breathe and grow and gain understanding. Set in the rich yet inauspicious lands of the Midwest, the collection presents a kaleidoscope of heartbreak and triumph beyond metropolitan skylines. There’s no voyeurism in these stories. Flanagan’s characters sit right next to you and tell you everything, even the details they don’t realize are all too personal, too private. –Greg Baldino”