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:
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.