Every time I read fiction by an author new to me, I expect to see, to be shown, things I have never seen before. Usually that’s a setup for disappointment, but Lisa Thatcher is a writer full of gleaming insights, the kinds of moments and visions I always hope for from a writer. Her book of short stories, Stack (available in PDF and paperback), also contains some quite original stylings, as in the case of Everyone Is Talking About Everyone These Days, which is told in a sort of round-robin of single gossipy comments, in an ever-revolving series of comments about one another told by an inter-related cast of characters, mainly focusing on one common friend in particular but also revealing all of them in their relationships and their attitudes towards one another.
Several of the other stories made me think, incongruously, of the oh-so-many pop songs belted out by divas of every gender which might easily be subtitled “If I Shriek Loud Enough Will You Love Me?”. These particular stories are like those ballads being gutted and ripped inside out, exposing and revealing their desperate and clinging innards. Part confession, part scream, part revelation, part poetry, those stories feel like they need to be at least performed, if not simply shouted out loud.
There are the self-punishingly circular confessions of the most narcissistic character you will ever meet in “I Don’t Know What I Do On The Train”, the hyper-competitive woman whose goal at church (to give but one example) was to be “closer to God than anyone else”.
Our emotional responses are pushed from utter repulsion to the tenderest empathy, as in the case of “The Previous Owner’s Shopping List”, a highly compelling story I won’t soon forget, the tale of an inexorable encounter between an anorexic woman and an obese man in the narrow aisles of a used book store. As with many of the stories, this one is full of sharply enlightening moments and unexpected delights. I could not help but fill in the sights and sounds and even smells with people and places I have known, to such an extent that the stories felt alive in the moment for me and I found myself with a sense of having somehow fallen into them as if I was actually there, and isn’t that as good as it gets in fiction?
Lisa also writes an excellent blog, which includes her book and music and movie reviews as well as other interesting articles.