Friday, March 16, 2012


Once, when I was a kid, curiosity overtook my deference for boundaries and I snuck into my parent’s room to snoop. I wasn’t looking for anything in particular, but I remember opening Mother’s jewelry box, the big chestnut-brown thing with the curved lid. The drawers were stuffed. They caught or creaked when I opened them. Inside it was all rhinestones and plastic, things that easily tarnished, but I didn’t know it at the time. To me, this was pirate treasure, gold and diamond riches. Bits glittered, stones winked at me, and the bracelets and chains had a marvelous rustling sound, like a metallic snakes whispering secrets. It all seemed dangerous—me sneaking into a forbidden area—decadent and unnaturally enthralling.
That’s how I felt reading Kathy Fish’s story collection, “Together We Can Bury It.”
I devoured the book. I marked up pages and underlined certain phrases that sang right off the parchment. I dog-earred and highlighted, and when I finished the last piece, I went back to the first and second trying to be certain—like “Love at First Sight” on a second date--that the writing enchanted me as much as I had initially believed, and to be sure, the writing enchanted me. It hasn’t stopped.
From the terrific book title, we move through the lives of troubled people not unlike wraiths who slip through bedroom walls to glimpse the destruction of life or its smoldering aftermath. Some pieces are clipped as short as a page. A few stories might stretch as long as six pages. No matter the length, Fish makes the reader work in all the right ways, so that there are needed pauses and reflections both during and after having finished a story. The reader sometimes has to ask, “Does that mean what I think?” or “Wait a minute—what’s really going on here?” Often, however, the message is brutally clear, as in the concluding lines of “Tederoni”:
“He stoops and picks up the kitten’s smooshed head and its body and the pieces are so small in his hands. Together, we walk to the side of the road and I watch as he chucks them, hard, into a patch of high weeds.”
Fish’s writing is like a light gleaming up from the bottom of the lake, distorting itself as refracted waves curl or undulate. Her characters ring true yet they keep an appropriate aloofness. We both feel as if we know these people, as if they are friends or acquaintances in our own lives, yet it is often like we are watching these friends behave badly on screen so that we’re powerless to intervene.
Fish is great at putting characters in jeopardy (the key to all good writing) and using environment to mood-cast particular predicaments, either evident or looming. For instance in “Foreign Film”:
“They have no eyes for subtitles. The musical score unnerves them. It is exactly the sound of an accordion squeezing the life out of a kitten.”
If you’re a fan of short bursts of lightning, then Fish is certainly your gal. If you want to learn how to write, how to live, what to avoid and where to escape to, then get “Together We Can Bury It.”

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this lovely review, Len! I am very grateful.