Every once in a while I get a terrific surprise in the mail. My mail bounces around from one house to another, I'm always forwarding and backwarding. What with holidays, and travel....today I opened an envelope postmarked November (oh dear....) and found a letter and manuscript from a writer whose work I did not know, Edith Pearlman. I get too many letters from strangers to be able to handle them all graciously, I'm afraid. But something about this one caught my eye--I think it was the lovely curlicued signature. Enclosed was the introduction, written by Ann Patchett, to a new collection of short stories. I'm a huge fan of Patchett's; I admired Bel Canto, and recommended  Run to many friends. In her introduction to Pearlman's book, Patchett writes: "Binocular Vision should be the book with which Edith Pearlman casts off her secret-handshake status and takes up her rightful position as a national treasure."

That stopped me. So I read on, as Edith Pearlman had kindly included a copy of her first story, Inbound. Two sisters, little girls; two parents, professors; a nostalgic trip to a library at Harvard. The weight of parental expectation--and disappointment--is palpable, almost unbearable. One girl, still in a stroller, has Down's Syndrome. The other, Sophie, is a strange little genius, with formidable powers of self-reliance. Sophie stops at a newsstand: "Now, staring at Le Monde, pretending that the man with earmuffs had gone home, she let her eyes cross slightly, the way she wasn't supposed to, and she melted in the spaces between the paragraphs until she entered a room beyond the newsprint, a paneled room lit by candles, walled in leather volumes, the way she had wanted the fifth-biggest library to look."

"...the way she wasn't supposed to..." That phrase alone, with all the implied authority, vulnerability, rebellion, took my breath away. This compact story speaks volumes about family dynamics. I was mesmerized by the tight, quiet, edgy control of the prose, by the refracted but loving light Pearlman throws on her characters, by the heart-pounding tension, and the dazzling resolution....In short, I joyfully recommend Binocular Vision: New and Selected Stories. I plan to dig into all of Pearlman's work--but I was so happy and excited to discover this writer that I wanted immediately to share it. Today we're snowed in, the air is tinseled--a perfect time to curl up with a cup of tea, a blanket, and a wonderful writer.


Bruce Barone said...

I plan to read her too. Last Sunday's NYT Book Review said something like "you may not have heard of her and if you have not you should read her now."

We had another five inches last night here in Western Massachusetts. Now the sun is out. Photos soon.

Dominique said...

And of course, I missed last Sunday's Times, as I was on a plane most of the day!

Cristina said...

what a gorgeous sight!!
I've read Bel Canto; now I'll be looking for Run. thanks for sharing your opinion.

david terry said...

Dear Ms. Browning,

Thanks for spreading the word about Ms. Pearlman's work.

She's awfully fine (and, by my standards, admirably & amusingly terse in her "autobiographical" comments).

Her most recent book is, oddly enough by some standards, coming out of Wilmington (a couple of hours south of my front porch). Rather obviously, Ms. Pearlman casts a wide and wisely-chosen net.

It's very gratifying/pleasing to see such a fine writer gaining such deserved recognition (do you need me to tell you that this doesn't happen very often on this particular planet?), and thank you for adding to the applause for her work.

sincerely (if a bit surprisedly),

David Terry

Jeanne Henriques said...

What a wonderful post! A perfect way to spend the day. I love what you have included here. I also love Ann Patchett's work. I have read Bel Canto and Truth and Beauty. Run is next...

Just want to mention that I sent your book to a friend in need this Christmas. I spent hours talking with her but wanted her to have something to dig into and really think about. She took it away to New Hampshire with her over the holidays and read it in the midst of a snow storm. She just sent me the loveliest note to say how much she enjoyed it...every word resonated with her. That made me so happy!

Thank you!!

Gretchen said...

Oh, how funny--I, too, read the NYT review and ordered the book, which is to arrive today (we, sadly, don't have an indie bookseller here, and I'm bed-bound, so Amazon it was. Sigh)! It will be a nice way to while away the frigid weekend scheduled in Annapolis, with my favorite tea and my pets surrounding me.

Leslie Brunetta said...

Dear Dominique,

I've known Edith for about 15 years through the National Writers Union--in fact, she helped me get our agent for Spider Silk, just one of the many ways she has generously helped other writers. You have a further treat in store: look for her essays, some of which can be tracked down through the Web. She's equally a master of that form, on a huge range of topics.

Just a brilliant wordsmith, with a marvelous sensibility. It's so great she's finally getting such widespread recognition.


Dominique said...

Thank you for the tip, Leslie, and how lovely to hear from you. I will definitely track down Edith Pearlman's essays on line. d

quintessence said...

Considering the pile of books next to my bed, I shouldn't be allowed to even consider another, but this certainly sounds tempting. Putting in on my list anyway.

Dominique said...

I know. My pile has now spilled onto the floor. But still. We might be snowed in for a few weeks, some year....books in piles are like money in the bank. They give security and the illusion, at least, of leisure.