Suspend Your Disbelief

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Short Story Month rec: "Carry the Water, Hustle the Hole" by Allison Amend

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.


Gwen Glazer

Gwen Glazer recently moved to Ithaca, NY, to pursue a master’s degree in library and information science and start a job that involves two of her favorite things: writing and librarians. She has one unpublished manuscript called “Down Home” and one novel-in-progress called “that new one about summer camp.” Gwen wrote a books column for a local newspaper for seven years, and her journalism-related work has appeared inWashingtonian magazine, National Journal, and several other publications. Three books she recommends to other writers are Margaret Atwood’s The Robber Bride, Edna O’Brien’s Country Girls trilogy and Donna Tartt’s The Secret History. She also feels compelled to reflect upon subconscious lessons about character development—but not proper hyphenation or apostrophe usage—gleaned from Ann M. Martin’s Baby-sitters Club books. (Did she just admit that? Oh yes she did.) Gwen enjoys patting other people’s dogs, mucking about in her new garden and writing about herself in third person.

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