I have a hard time remembering that I actually like short stories, even though Elizabeth Crane and Melissa Bank and Lorrie Moore are some of my favorite living authors, and short fiction is some (or all) of their best work. So when our wise and talented editor raved about Allison Amend’s newest collection, it took me half a year to get around to reading it.
Don’t wait as long as I did. Things that Pass for Love is beautiful and brilliant, each story distinctly separate and distinctly wonderful. It’s hard to choose a favorite, but let’s go with “Carry the Water, Hustle the Hole.” The narrator, an “all-white Wisconsinite lesbian biology Ph.D. student with Thursday afternoons free,” is using lab mice to research memory and slowly losing her own. With true creativity, Amend offers Jetta’s story in the form of sonnets, lab book notes, dated diary entries, and letters from Today’s Golfer magazine. She even uses a nursery rhyme to advance the plot:
Hickory Dickory Dock
The mice run up the Clock
The Clock’s funding’s denied
The Mice commit suicide
Hickory Dickory Dock.
After 20 pages, we know Amend’s narrator better than we know some characters we’ve given 20 hours of reading time — and care more about her, too. You can read another great story from Things that Pass for Love on the author’s Web site.