One Great Things | March Book Giveaway!

Here at One Great Things we are (obviously) obsessed with reading & we want to spread our giddiness as far & wide as we can. One thing we want to do is share some of our favorite books with you! Every month we are going to giveaway one of our favorite books. Just tell us your One Great Things recommendation in the comments of this post or on Twitter & we will randomly choose a winner. 

This month we are giving away a copy of Leesa Cross-Smith‘s novel Whiskey & Ribbons!Screen Shot 2018-03-28 at 8.44.47 AM

The accolades for this book are too many to list here, but check them out here (& get a playlist to accompany the book)! Here is what author Alexander Chee had to say about Whiskey & Ribbons:

“Cross-Smith’s thrilling debut novel, Whiskey and Ribbons, is as immediate and compelling as music. Her three lovers tell their stories, each turning over what we think we know, creating a moving triptych on love, desire, and grief, and the unexpected families life makes for us.”

One Great Things About “Half-Life”

Screen Shot 2018-03-07 at 11.47.08 AM.png

Dear friends,

I’m writing this to you from an indoor playground where one of my daughters is hanging from her knees from far too high up and my other daughter is across the parking lot in a rock climbing class. It’s too loud and too bright and too much. But I’ve waited to write this until I was here, to test the atmosphere of this piece. Like a song you can listen to on loop “Half-Life” by Dina Relles’ in Cheap Pop is one I’ve returned to over the past month. And it holds up, even in this place of primary colored plastic and toddler tantrums.

From crushed bugs to storms to dreams to half-lifes and isotopes, this piece covers so much ground while maintaining the same evocative atmosphere. An atmosphere like the minutes before a storm when everything goes eerily still, the birds stop chirping, the air warms before all hell breaks loose. Relles’ does this all in 462 words. Sounds impossible, right? It is possible only because this is writing at its best. It is possible because of concise word choice, precise details, images cut down to their essentials.

In this piece hills “taunt,” the sky is “cadaver blue,” fingernails are “jagged stubs,” a bug crushed “sneaker to asphalt.” There is this stark image, left perfectly on its own, backlit only by the scientific facts surrounding it: “Sometimes I’ll undress in front of the black window, lights on, and wonder if anyone’s watching.” There are no superfluous words here. Every word is necessary, every word lends itself to the feeling of the piece like a perfectly executed piano solo that echoes and haunts you even as you sleep, that wakes you like a storm of its own.

I will not let this mini-review surpass the word count of “Half-Life,” so I will leave you with these sentences from Relles’ perfectly executed story: “I’m scared of rain we run from. Of storms that stay at our backs. Of empty nights that fall one into the next. Scared, not of the dying, but of living half a life.” Now, go read this story. Wait for the storm.

Always in words,

Meghan

unnamed.jpg

One Great Things about “A Certain Woman” by Monet Thomas

I’d like to warn you that this review and the story it is about deal with domestic violence.

  

I’m writing this from a large wooden table in the Rose Reading Room at the New York Public Library, a building I’ve dreamed of since I was a child. A child who read about this place in so many of the novels I checked out from the libraries at school and in whatever city we were living in, a child who searched those stories for what was needed at the time. There is a reason I believe in the specific power of literature, because as a child I desperately needed stories to guide me, to help me feel less alone, to deal with pain and suffering, to find the truth. I felt less alone in my own pain when I read stories of other people, even when those people were fictional. There is a comfort in seeing truth played out on the page, even hard and uncomfortable truths, even truths that shift. They give us permission to have our own stories, regardless of their origin, regardless of our ability to explain them.

When I first read Monet Thomas’ story “A Certain Woman” in Third Point Press, I was reminded of the feeling of being a child and finding a story that both terrified and comforted me in its truths, no matter how fluid they seemed to me. In this story we watch as a woman is hit again by her husband and then watch as she grapples with what came next, we see all the other ways this could have gone, we see the truth: that nothing is certain. I don’t want to talk about the specifics of this story or domestic violence because I want you to read this story, I want you to find what you need to there. I want you to catch a whiff of onions with the woman and hold your breath while she doesn’t hesitate.

What I want to talk about is why this story sank like a rock in my stomach and sat there, making me uncomfortable, but full. Though the narrator in this story says that “…human imagination could not begin to comprehend or predict what would emerge,” here is Thomas with her sharp pen, an immense imagination and capacity for compassion, helping us predict and comprehend. The story never asserts a Truth, but opens the door for many truths that echo in a place where there is “no real genesis” for violence and where violence creates a “dark place where no light could survive.” Even in the darkness, this story is a light. This story is a testament to human imagination and generous in the space it allows for its readers.

Unlike the Cosmo articles and Lifetime movies about domestic violence referenced in the story, literature has the ability to terrify and comfort simultaneously. Literature feels private. It is not flashy headlines or quick fixes that always seem to fail us, it is a story, just for you. In that privacy we are free to grapple with the stories we bring with us as we read while finding a level of comfort (though that word hardly seems right against the background of this story) in connecting with another’s story. 

“A Certain Woman” is the perfect example of what George Saunders references when he says, “Fiction is a kind of compassion-generating machine that saves us from sloth. Is life kind or cruel? Yes, Literature answers. Are people good or bad? You bet, says Literature.” At the end of Monet Thomas’ brilliant story we are left with this uncomfortable truth — we must wrestle with the complex and it will be work and we may never know who wins. 

I never want to stop writing about this story because I never want to stop being overwhelmed by the power of stories, by the way a character from someone else’s imagination can come to take up residence in your own. But tell me, what are some stories that have done that for you?

Until next time

Meghan

One Great Things About “Collective Nouns for Humans in the Wild”

2018-01-24During my MFA days Professor David Huddle once asked what was the most important word in the poem “Those Winter Sundays” by Robert Hayden. I responded “cold” for the way it transformed throughout the poem, from “blueblack” to “splintering” to “driven out.” One word, what we do with it, can make all the difference. Kathy Fish’s flash fiction piece “Collective Nouns for Humans in the Wild” has its own single word, a word the entire piece hinges on: “previously.”

Fish’s inventive and joyful use of language is on full display from the beginning. (“A group of grandmothers is a tapestry. A group of toddlers, a jubilance.”) Within the smallest flash package (a mere 135 words or so) we unpack rhythms and delightful diction, emotions that take us from glee to awe to reverence. But just as we are “gathered and feeling good,” Fish gives us a turn, she gives us knowledge we can’t return from.

Where once people gathered, when “previously” we were an “exhilaration” we are now a “target.”

 Of concert-goers.

Of movie-goers.

Of dancers.

The morning I wrote this, there had already been two school shootings in just as many days: one in Kansas, another in Texas.

“A group of schoolchildren is a target,” Fish concludes. She is right, though don’t we all desperately wish this weren’t so?

The relevance of this writing is undeniable and too often timely. The pleasure of language in the beginning of the piece, too, is undeniable. How can both exist in such close proximity? How did we cross over into territory where all of us are vulnerable? How sad that word is, “previously.” How awful the need for this piece. How terribly necessary.

Yours in words,

Michael