At what point does a story become more than a story? At what point does a story give more than it asks of the person who reads it? Such things are lofty goals for an author and hard to accomplish. Like so many artistic endeavors, if you try too hard you’ve already failed. Most authors are lucky to accomplish this one time. In her collection of short stories Making Light of Tragedy, Jessica Grant accomplishes this feat not once, but twenty-three times. The stories here are deconstructions of the rhetoric of what a story is and what a story can be. Neither has a beginning, middle, or end. None of them use punctuation in dialog attribution, resulting in multiple ways in which each story can be read. Each feels like a scene from a movie or a snippet of life, from which you learn more about the characters than most writers can accomplish in entire novels.
In addition to being able to be read and enjoyed as straight stories, metaphor can also be attributed to each to add more depth and meaning.
Take the story “Engineers.” At only six pages it can be read as a simple story about a young couple sneaking around a University campus having sex during double-daylight savings. The characters are fun and witty, but if you scratch the surface it becomes the story of Original Sin, and of taking back the blame for original sin and making it something to be proud of. Something to be held up high.
Or “Bellicrostic,” a portrait of a literary editor less and less interested in her work to the point where she plays The Sims all day: a metaphor for Godhood.
What about “My Husband’s Jump,” which asks the simple question of what if a ski-jump never ended and goes with it in amazing new directions.
The only thing I would have wanted from this author that isn’t there is a “from the author” or an “afterword” section, but the stories are left to speak for themselves.
Witty but serious, feminist and sexy, Making Light of Tragedy by Jessica Grant is not to be missed.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
“In addition to being able to be read and enjoyed as straight stories, metaphor can also be attributed to each to add more depth and meaning.”