If youth is wasted on the young then perhaps wisdom is wasted on the old. Paula Bomer writes with the wisdom of an adult, but with the heart, the curiosity and the urgency we all grow to one day miss. Her 2012 debut novel Nine Months, an exceedingly raw portrayal of the life of an unhappily pregnant woman, stood out among the year’s best, but her newest short story collection, Inside Madeline shows how much further the author’s talent stretches.
What of the word “raw?” NY Times book reviewer Dana Tortorici in her review of Inside Madeline describes the adjective as a backhanded compliment in reviewer speak. “Half praise, half dis, it commends the struggle to embrace female ugliness while finding the work unsatisfactory. ‘Raw’ work is visceral but also hard to digest—a kind term, in other words, for something half-baked,” she writes. It seems to me what that what she’s describing is the kind of bravery and brazenness so often missing in modern storytelling. The dark and the raw in storytelling is too easily dismissed as young or profane. There are plenty of anodyne stories to consume across all kinds of media, but when I pick up a book of non-genre short stories, I go into it hoping it’s written by an author unafraid to embrace ugly, to delve into the guts of physical and emotional growing pains, loneliness and despair. What’s more universal than that? Otherwise you might as well seek out the literary equivalent of pop music. Bomer’s writing is truly raw, not raw in the way the word has entered book reviewer vocabulary. (more…)