Not Oprah’s Book Club: Death is Not an Option

It’s easy to sit back and say that the reading public, or at least what is left of it, doesn’t read enough short stories—as so many a critic has done over the past few years. And it’s true: we don’t. So I count it as a political act of sorts to seek out short story collections particularly those, this will come as no surprise, written by women. When it’s a young woman, to boot, well, count me in.

Reading Suzanne Rivecca’s debut short story collection, Death is Not an Option, may have started as a political act on my part, but it quickly became a rabid obsession. The collection is brilliant—a rare and wildly entertaining mix of feminist wit, highly original prose, and endlessly endearing and familiar characters. Rivecca deals with a smargasbord of issues that we write about on this blog every day—sexual assault, religious dogma, adolescent sexuality—in the most poetic and moving of ways. It’s as if the smartest, funniest Feministing reader ever, wrote a collection of short stories (or at least that’s how it felt to me). Here’s just a taste of her moving prose:

It’s like those rare moments in life when we are hit with an urge to explain. Along with the delusion that everyone cares, that everyone has been waiting with bated breath all along, all through the long desert of our silence, and after we tell all they will look at us with dewy pride and love.

Rivecca actually goes on to explain how these rare moments are usually proven false, that no one is “waiting with bated breath” for our shining insights. But in this case, she’s wrong. I look on her bravery, her sensibility, her talent with “dewy pride and love,” both.

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One Comment

  1. Posted December 2, 2010 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

    A little problem:

    ‘Rivecca actually goes on to explain how these rare moments are usually proven false, that no one is “waiting with bated breath” for our shining insights. But in this case, she’s wrong.

    You paint her as claiming “no one” is waiting, which is an affirmation of 0%. The quote you have from her claims: not everyone — which only makes an affirmation of a proportion less than 100%. Realistically, the numbers fall somewhere between 0% and 100%, although I’d lean closer to 0% just because “waiting with bated breath” is not something most people do very often.

    I think the message of that quote (and I’m taking a huge stab here by not knowing the surrounding context) concerns the idea that a lot of (or even most) people are not enthusiastic about the issues you care about, no matter sincere you are and how serious the topics are. People are barraged by lots of different messages and problems, and many of them get so overwhelmed (at least mentally) that they have trouble thinking clearly about issues they are not familiar with.

    And on that note, saying people don’t read enough short stories has to be weighed against other concerns, like “people don’t exercise enough,” “people do not get enough education,” “people do not [volunteer/donate] enough,” “people are not [socially/politically] active enough,” or “people do not pursue their dreams enough.” People only have so much time, effort, and resources to dedicate towards different goals, and while people on average can reasonably do more, notions like this one are often cited in a common lie that an individual can do *everything* s/he “should” do (and it’s the person’s fault when s/he doesn’t).

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