SIMPLY SEPARATE PEOPLE, TWO by lynn crawford

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SIMPLY SEPARATE PEOPLE was a delicious act of worldbuilding which viewed its characters through an unexpected slant angle. the result was a very familiar but hard-to-put-your-finger-on strange depiction of the every day. personable, a book easy to fall into, as its characters’ hardships and motivations are recognizable and crawford’s view of them is generous and refrains from judgment. here’s the beginning:

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and now, just published, is SIMPLY SEPARATE PEOPLE, TWO. less a sequel so much as a second variation on her theme of the quotidian mixed with the uncanny. the focus here is storytelling, our urge to be storytellers, and what stories tell about its teller. crawford has her suburban mother narrator retell stories by hemingway and henry james in such a way that our view of ourselves turns almost unconsciously satirical and/or creepy.

Here is what happens. One morning, a mom, pretty, dressed in a sweat suit, sneakers, approaches me at morning drop off. She tells me I look fit and wonders if I exercise. I tell her we have a swimming pool on our roof and, in warm weather, I sometimes swim there. But otherwise, no, not really. She tells me she and a group of mothers go to a nearby gym ever morning to triathlon train, and invites me to join them. Maybe tomorrow?

She points to the group. There they stand. Oh, I think, those women. I have, honestly, noticed them, admired them, felt dwarfed by them. They are not the professional moms, carefully dressed, with no time to linger. Not the tired looking moms carrying chewed up sippie cups, wearing sweat suits that they might have slept in, with strands of dog hair on the seat, huddling together, complaining about how dirty their kitchens are, how much weight they have put on. Not the moms in tunics and flip flops, dreamily heading off to yoga or meditation. No. these moms wear pony tails under sports caps, tinted moisturizer, clear lip gloss and seem to be (like the professional moms) in a hurry, or at least revved up (99-100).

SIMPLY SEPARATE PEOPLE, TWO is a magical machine whose innards are in plain view but whose operating principles remain profoundly mysterious. a dazzling feat of collage and reverse-engineering, crawford writes in a deceptively easy-going style that’s both critical of and generous to all our sad and beautiful scurrying around.

pick it up from SPD or the publisher or your local library.

PIECES FOR SMALL ORCHESTRA AND OTHER FICTIONS by norman lock

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a suite of four interacting works that do meta-fictionality without that embarrassing pedantic odor. and in the title work lock so refines a style that his figurines gesture on an exquisite stage with a perfect modulation of wit and heartbreak. these miniatures gradually develop their emotional and formal ambitions so, as with the funambulist named within, we hold our breath — unbelieving the instant-by-instant and sentence-by-sentence marvels of lock’s high-wire act.
The Prime Minister is in the vestibule, brushing his silk hat with his sleeve. He comes each night after the cares of state have been put away. He lays them in a drawer among maps and pairs of immaculate white gloves. To be here with us requires finesse; for the nation believes he is lucubrating, not waltzing — certainly not doing the two-step or tango with a rustling girl in his arms! A girl in a pale-yellow dress whose frou frou causes desire to rise up in his thinnest ducts. He left the ministry by the back stairs, eluded the stiffly standing military guard, tiptoed past the alleys where, since nightfall, men and women have come in search of contraband. Each night he slides a stack of crimson inflationary currency over the sill of the wire wicket, behind which a woman sits who hands him, in return, a loop of blue tickets. Always it is the same girl with whom he dances — the one in the yellow dress, which makes a crepuscular music. She whose hair is the color of certain sunsets. It is for this the Prime Minister lives — not for his wife or his countrymen, who pity him over their beer and sausages for his ceaseless devotion. I lift my glass to him as he passes near my table, but his mind is elsewhere — on a diagram of the samba he is now dancing, studied intently an hour ago (a map of movement through a space hostile to gracelessness). I know what is in his mind, for inside the hotel I have the gift of omniscience. Do not ask who gave me it. I don’t know, unless it is the bottle of clearest gin, the mermaid on the swizzle stick, or the strength of my own desire (52-3).

pick it up from the publisher or from SPD.

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more on m. lock here.

Two upcoming readings

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Bad Shadow Affair Reading series
at Lost Lake Lounge | 3602 East Colfax | Denver, Colorado

Saturday, May 7th, 7:30pm

Laird Hunt,

Tina Brown Celona,

Keith Newton &

Eugene Lim

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Queens Poet Lore Presents QPLo @ QL:

A Reading with
Paolo Javier,
Eugene Lim,
Christine Hou

Thursday, May 19
6:30 p.m.
Flushing branch of the Queens Library

Rooms A&B, Lower Level
41-17 Main Street
718-661-1200
Join us and celebrate Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month with a reading featuring Queens Poet Laureate Paolo Javier, novelist Eugene Lim, and poet/art critic Christine Hou. A short open mic will precede the reading, with sign-up at 6:00 p.m.  Books will be available for sale and signing.

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