Whenever I forget why I like to read (or enjoy anything, really) I pick up this book and remember why I got so obsessed with literature in the first place. You don't know a sentence until you've read Amy Hempel's. Her terse wit and attention to detail will probably change your life. After finishing a story of hers you'll feel as though the pressure in the room has changed. I could probably write an essay on this book. So seriously, just read this.
"I was trying to make you love me anyway I could. I had a feeling I wasn't doing so well anymore. I thought about how effortless it had been in the beginning:
1. eat a bag of peanut M&M's
2. brush hair"
These stories are not about love but the delusional obsession that sometimes goes by that name. Gaitskill's debut story collection exposes the bare wires of emotion that lie in all of us - the inexplicable nature of attraction that makes us feel out of control & the (often unhealthy) ways we try to regain that sense of control. These stories don't hide anything; they tell the nature of human relationships without excluding the ugly parts, because the ugliness makes the story worth telling. Reading these stories is like a backhanded compliment - it makes you uneasy and upends your sense of self while at the same time endearing you and drawing you in.
Lydia Davis writes very tiny little short stories, but they are far from cute. Like Amy Hempel, Raymond Carver, et. al., she is a master of the sentence. Davis is also a translator of French literature and has been known to say her almost prose-poem stories are a retort against Flaubert's convoluted sentences (see her translation of Madame Bovary). Less is definitely more when it comes to this amazing collection.
As if the reader were riding shotgun, this intensely vivid novel captures a life on the lam. L astragale is the French word for the ankle bone Albertine Sarrazin's heroine Anne breaks as she leaps from her jail cell to freedom. As she drags herself down the road, away from the prison walls, she is rescued by Julien, himself a small-time criminal, who keeps her hidden. They fall in love.