Sunday, January 13, 2008

A Blind Man Can See How Much I Love You by Amy Bloom

blindman.jpgI just read my first collection for the challenge, and it was beautiful! First off, isn't that cover gorgeous?! Might not be the best one to read on the public bus, though-my mom saw it and got the wrong impression. hehe While these stories definitely aren't erotica, several of them do focus on sexuality, and the myriad forms that it comes in. Most of my reading is heterosexual-centric, so it was refreshing to read a collection that includes trans-gendered and homosexual characters as well! The title story focuses on a mother who, when she realises that her little girl wants to be a boy, decides to go about fulfilling that wish to the best of her abilities. Bloom's prose really creeps up on you; its beauty seems to obscure some of the emotional content until all of a sudden you find yourself laughing and crying along with the characters.

In addition to sexuality, Bloom likes to focus on loss. In "Stars at Elbow and Foot," the main character has just lost her baby; then, in the following story entitled "Hold Tight," we have the reverse of a teenage girl losing her mother. Both of these are exquisitely rendered. Really, the entire collection is about love: maternal love, friendly love, sexual love, and how sometimes they can get all mixed up. In the center are two stories focusing on the same characters-Lionel and Julia. What makes it interesting is that the first story ("Night Vision") is told entirely from Lionel's point of view, so the reader meets the people in his life through his eyes. Then, in "Light Into Dark" we suddenly see Lionel as these others see him, and it's just fascinating to see the differences! Bloom's prose is consistently stunning. Take this passage from "Rowing to Eden," a story about Mai, a middle-aged beauty who's going through treatment for breast cancer, her husband Charley, and her best friend since college (and a lesbian) Ellie
It seems to Mai that even her subconscious has lost its subtlety. Mais is famous for her subtle humour, her subtle beauty, her subtle understanding of the Bronte sisters, of nineteenth-century England, of academic politics and the art of tenure, which she got at thirty. Now she feels as subtle as Oprah and not even as quick.

That's Bloom being delicate; she also knows how to be raw, as in the thoughts of the narrator of "The Story":
The story I began to write would have skewered her, of course. Anyone who knew her would have read it and known it was she and thought badly of her while reading. She would have been embarassed and angry. That really is not what I have in mind. I want her skin like a rug on my floor, warm throat slit, heart still beating behind the newly bricked-up wall.

There isn't really a weak point in this collection; the only thing I wish is that it was longer (it's only eight stories and weighs in at 163 pages). If you love stories that focus on characters and emotions, rather than plot, and if you eat up beautiful writing, you will definitely want to own this book. And if not, well, this book just might change your mind!


J.C. Montgomery said...

As I am new to Short Story reading, I am discovering how much I have missed, or more to the point, deprived myself of some great writing. I definitely will be rethinking my reading lists in the future.

This collection sounds like a great read, and if the stories are as intense as they sound, perhaps 163 pages will be perfect, as it will give a reader such as myself more time to savor and recover from each venture into the authors prose.

Wonderful review, thank you!

Andi said...

This book sounds right up my alley! Some of the description of the book reminded me of things I see pop up in Siri Hustvedt's writing (she's one of my all-time favorites). She doesn't write quickly enough, so I definitely need something to fill in the void. :)