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I’ve been searching for Lydia Peelle on the internet. Unfortunately, when I met her at Bryant Park the other week, I hadn’t yet bought Reasons for and Advantages of Breathing and so wasn’t able to fully express my gratitude to her for having written it. At that point, too, I only knew I’d read one of her stories before, the title one, in One Story. After I brought home her gorgeously printed paperback and delved into the eight stories within, I realized I’d actually read three of them in various “Best of” anthologies. While I didn’t remember Ms. Peelle’s name, I certainly remembered the stories. So, although I doubt it, since she’s not on Facebook and doesn’t seem to have her own website, I hope Ms. Peelle is the type to relentlessly google herself, because, since I can’t write her a fan letter, she can take this post as one.


The collection kicks off with the excellent “Mule Killers,” in which a girl is described as having “onion-pale hair,” a phrase that, I kid you not, has stayed vividly in my head since I first read it in 2006. Ms. Peelle read the opening paragraph of this story in Bryant Park and I think it sold her a great many books.

My favorite story in the collection is not one that I’d read before. Read the rest of this entry »

Happy one year anniversary, Our Books are Better than We Are! To help me celebrate, I think everyone should leave a comment (here on the blog, not on Facebook!) about the best book they’ve read lately.

My celebratory post on one of the best short story collections I’ve read in about my entire life, Reasons for and Advantages of Breathing by Lydia Peelle, is forthcoming.

I am rife with anecdotes for this one.

Last week, I was sitting at a bar, drinking a beer and reading the first story in Wells Tower’s short story collection, Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned while I waited for some writer friends to come join me. When they arrived, they greeted the sight of the book in my hand with a kind of noise somewhere between a groan and a growl.

YES! I said.

YES! we all agreed.

We wanted to hate the book. To a group of people who spend their days eeking out sentences it seems like we can only hope to have each other read, watching the praise, press and rapturous accolades bestowed upon this guy’s debut accumulate over the past few months was pretty intense. Two of us (myself included) admitted to marking one of Mr. Tower’s May readings on our calendars, just so we could check him out, only to ruefully let the day pass by. Most of us thought he made up his name. I requested the book from my library and had to wait two months to finally get my hands on it, leaving me wondering how this guy got so many people in Queens even–of all places!–to line up to read his work. UGH! But then, you know, I got the book, and I started it, and well, it is really that fucking good.


I tried to savor the collection, couldn’t, finished it almost immediately. Then, I went–again with some writer friends–to the Bryant Park Reading Room to see a conversation with Wells Tower and Lydia Peelle, moderated by John Wray (who, you recall, I also wanted to hate–I am a hater, this is becoming clear). And, as would have been a surprise to me before actually reading the book but wasn’t after I read it, Mr. Tower was charming, funny, self-deprecating, literate, thoughtful and really, really likable. After the event, I admitted I’d read a library copy of his book so I had nothing for him to sign, which he actually seemed totally happy about (I guess writers like libraries) and then, like some weird teenage fan, I used the word “awesome” about sixteen times to describe his work. He was very nice, and humble. Sigh. So, from one extreme to the other.

Now, on to the book itself. Read the rest of this entry »