What to Read on the Subway This Week: 4/9
On this post-Easter week, listen to a Bunny-themed podcast, read a collection of short stories by a prize-winning author, ponder the nature of platonic friendship, and become a temporary member of a 20th century southern community.
On Your Kindle
Runaway, by Alice Munro
At 80 years old, Canada-born Alice Munro is a prolific writer, winner of the 2009 Mann Booker International Prize for her life’s work, and a person who can capture—with almost chilling accuracy—the twisted feelings, anxieties, and joys that complicate relationships.
This 2004 collection of stories is impossible to put down: The book opens with the titular story in all its grabby intrigue. Three subsequent stories feature one protagonist at different points in her life, connected and familiar enough in their disjointedness that each reads like a piece of a jigsaw puzzle that, though its picture becomes more and more vivid, never quite gets solved. While other authors sometimes separate from their characters to focus on other subjects—the setting, for instance, which often becomes a character in its own right—Munro focuses squarely on her women and how they interact, offering economical descriptions of landscape and furnishings that, miraculously, still manage to paint a vivid picture.
Her most interesting insights are into the relationships that defy definition: that between an elderly woman and the oblivious young girl she’s come to cherish, the unlikely friendship between a wife and her husband’s former lover, the loyalty of a housekeeper to a dead wife who never once appears in the flesh.
On Your Smartphone
A Man. A Woman. Just Friends? By William Deresiewicz
Start your week off with an age-old question, posed by society and examined by William Deresiewicz in the New York Times’ Sunday Review. Deresiewicz explores the question of whether platonic friendship can exist between men and women, delving into the historical and pop-culture cases against such friendships in contrast with real-life examples that they can and do exist. As women compete and interact with men in more regular and varied situations, he argues, this friendship question begins to dissipate. Read his assessment—and tell us what you think: Can men and women be “just friends?”
On a Podcast
Easter Bunny Blues, by Lela Davidson
As a child, Easter Eve was one of my favorite days of the year. My sister and I would go to bed after church chatty and excited for what we hoped the morning would bring: evidence of carrots and celery devoured by a woodland creature with a cottontail, and a subsequent hunt around our home for baskets filled with chocolate eggs and jelly beans.
As I got older, basic logic and mean kids might have weakened my belief in the beloved Easter Bunny, but I was steadfast. I knew the Bunny was real: My sensible mother wouldn’t willingly spoil our pre-breakfast appetites with tooth-rotting candy and, moreover, she wouldn’t make a mess with the pastel Easter grass that filled our baskets.
I immediately warmed to this podcast, sweet and playful in its brevity, which is perfect for this post-Easter morning. If you (or your kids) have a soft spot for the Easter Bunny, then listen to this and smile.
Cold Sassy Tree, by Olive Ann Burns
In this novel, set in Georgia at the turn of the 20th century, Burns makes the fictional town of Cold Sassy come alive. It’s the story of a love between two adults—a recent widower and his scandal-inducing new bride, much his junior—long drawn-out and developed only after their hasty marriage. Their story is peppered with the humorous observations and coming-of-age narration of Will Tweedy, a 14-year-old boy growing as the town grows in newly modern times. Burns makes you see right to the souls of her characters and that of their town more generally: Her story is one of loyalty to other people and to a community.
Photo courtesy of Francisco Osorio.
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