Sunday, January 6, 2013
The Rose Collection, by Louisa Clerici
Some weeks I can't find a single story I like. Some weeks, on the other hand, there is an embarrassment of riches. Take this book (and really, what's the idea of calling an anthology of new stuff the "Best" stories? That's cheating.)
I thought "Plain Vanilla" by Michael Nethercott would make a fine choice for the week. But before I hit the weekend I read "Boxed" by Daniel Moses Luft. And then along came this little character study by Louisa Clerici, which knocked them both out of competition.
Obsession is either comic or tragic, depending on how close you are standing to the fallout. The narrator is Laura, a woman who lives a pleasant if slightly stir-crazy life in rural Indiana. Her life is changed when an elderly neighbor leaves her a piece of costume jewelry: a brooch that was "all sparkly with a pale gold intricate rose." Get used to detailed description, because Laura provides them for whatever she thinks is interesting, while glossing over things she considers less important. And that, you might say, provides the key to her character.
Laura starts studying about jewelry at the library and discovers that the best chance to get more is a big flea market in Cumberland, Indiana. Problem is her husband doesn't want her to go. That doesn't turn out to be a problem for long, because he dies. In fact, it is best not to get between Laura and her jewelry plans.
Some people say that in genre literature the plot matters more than the language, while in mainstream literature it is the opposite. In this story the language is the plot.