Reasons for and Advantages of Breathing by Lydia Peelle
Harper Perennial, New York, 2009
Borrowed from the library.
Beautiful, unsettling stories about people and their daily lives in the disappearing agrarian south. Peelle is a fine writer and these stories will stay with the me for a long time. They are about love and loss. they are dark, but it is a very sweet kind of dark.
And the characters, it is as if they are standing next to you in line at the grocery store, discussing the weather along with their heartache.
From the story Sweethearts of the Rodeo:
The ponies bear witness to dozens of pacts and promises. We make them in the grave light of late day, with every intention of keeping them. We cross our hearts and hope to die on the subjects of horses, husbands and each other. We dare each other to do near-impossible things. You dare me to jump from the top of the manure pile, and I do, and land on my feet, with manure in my shoes. I double-dare you to take the brown pony over the triple oxer, which is higher than his ears. You ride hell bent for it but the pony stops dead, throwing you over his head, and you sail through the air and land in the rails, laughing. We are covered in scrapes and bruises, splinters buried so deep in our palms that we don’t know they are there. Our bodies forgive our risks, and the ponies do,too. We have perfected the art of falling. Page 54.
And from the story This Is Not A Love Story:
When people take about the south being haunted, it’s true. But it’s not the places that are haunted, it’s the people. They are trapped by all the stories of the past, wandering a long hallway of locked doors, knocking and knocking, with no one ever answering. No one ever will. That’s the thing about the past. Te closest you can get to it is the stories, and stories don’t even come close. Page 121.
If you like short stories, read this book. If you would like an introduction to contemporary short stories, read this book. Peelle has won two Pushcart Prizes and an O’Henry Award. She is an author to keep an eye on.