Book review: Stories We Keep, edited by Dawn Curtis and Robin Bourjaily

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Book review: Stories We Keep, edited by Dawn Curtis and Robin Bourjaily

“Stories We Keep” is a small book, only 64 pages. And it’s even shorter if you’re a reader like me who isn’t very hip to yoga or interested in recipes involving yams.

Nonetheless, its five short stories are startlingly vivid evocations of the sharp shards of life.

Let me explain.

These stories are from five female writers who use a particular trademarked approach to yoga — Yoga as Muse — to expand their creative horizons. Hence, the Q&A at the end of each writer’s story concerning the interaction of the disciplines of yoga and writing. They call themselves the YAM Tribe. Hence, the recipes for yams that most of them add as well.

All of which may set up expectations for New Age-ish narratives about crystals and Gaia.

Not to worry. Jeffrey Davis, the originator of Yoga as Muse, writes in an introduction:

This anthology contains no epiphanies. No ecstatic moments of the writer or a character becoming one with green leaves and mountain streams. No Rumi-esque songs of the Divine.

What a relief.

Moving toward truth

Yoga, according to Davis, isn’t about ecstasy or epiphany. And neither is writing.

Practicing yoga does not remove all maladies. Nor does writing every day. Or publishing a book or a best-seller, for that matter….Writers and yogis both — at least the ones I respect — move toward the truth. And we practice, specifically to discover and rediscover and rediscover yet again how to feel the music that we might navigate the dark.
As I’ve said, I have no experience or understanding of yoga. But Davis’s words about writing do ring true.

So do the stories in this book. They aren’t for the risk-aversive.

For instance, Catherine Holm’s story is titled “A Cold Minnesota Day for a Rape, and it includes the paragraph:

Janitor helps you up. He’s saying things, but none of it sticks. The wall is thickening, growing roots through your heart and skin and cells. Take his hand. No tears, nothing but numb. Cold deep numb all the way to the toes on your feet. To your head and skull. To your eyes. To the center of your heart.

Marian

All of these stories are about sex, directly or indirectly.

The narrator in the story by Darleen Rivais tells about the months after a miscarriage:

The sex was good; it just seemed for nothing.

Tonight, silver moonlight slants through the blinds in broken stripes against the rumpled sheets, bends over my thigh and curls across your back. From deep in your sleep you murmur: Marian.

I don’t know Marian.

Mysterious metaphor

Not every story is so sharply jarring. Robin Bourjaily offers a mysterious metaphor when her central character Tanya tells of meeting her husband for the first time in a bar for a blind date that fell flat.

As she headed for the door, Tanya told herself not to look back, but couldn’t resist, and was arrested by what she saw. Jeremy had lifted her old-fashioned glass and fit the print her Dior lipstick had left against his own bottom lip. He held it there, eyes nearly closed, body relaxed against the half-kiss of the glass.

If that doesn’t make you want to read the rest of the story, I don’t know what would.

And if these excerpts have made you interested in finding the book and reading it yourself, yam recipes and all, you can find it at storieswekeep.com for $8.99.

Patrick T. Reardon
4.9.12

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