I never really liked short stories.
I felt like I was being cheated, when I had invested the same amount of interest and enthusiasm as when starting a 200, 300 page book, to see the stories cut short after 10 pages or even less. They seemed like sorry excuses from authors who were too lazy to develop all the details of their characters.
I wanted to know the shade of the color of their hair, the places they lived in, why they had decided to move from A town to B city and vice versa, and the small incident ten years ago that prompted their tears on a quiet Sunday evening.
Short stories rarely gave me any of that.
But what even Jhumpa Lahiri failed to show me, or maybe I knew it all along but simply had failed to realize it, Keegan’s collection of short stories did.
Sometimes, not saying everything is harder than saying everything.
Being given the opportunity to linger on the meaning and the past of the unexplained looks and words is a privilege only the reader of short stories can have, I have come to realize. It is in the process of such uncertainty, curiosity and exploration that we connect with these characters that never existed and give them life. After all, rarely any of us are really open books, we have our secrets and feelings and experiences we don’t necessarily want to see materialized in explicit words.
The buzz around this book didn’t exactly convince me to buy the book in the first place, since I’m one of those “I’m too good to like what everybody likes” type of people. But somehow curiosity won this time and it’s hard not to say it wasn’t a bad choice.
Some reviews have pointed out that beside the fact it is indeed a tragic story of a promising and full of life 22-year old who would never blow another birthday candle, her writing is not necessarily, technically, mesmerizing.
Maybe so. Maybe there were one or two stories I didn’t quite bond with either. However, Keegan’s power in creating a world of unwritten and unspoken words to allow us to explore beyond black letters on white paper is, simply, beautiful. Moreover, the simple and unapologetic honesty she provides in her non-fiction part of the collection is a breath of fresh air.
I don’t know if she would have become one of the great writers of our times, had she not succumbed to that tragic accident.
I don’t know if she would have become one of the many disillusioned ‘adults’ of our era to end up taking a job as a consultant, like the 25% of her peers at Yale, with her ambition to become a writer silently tucked away in the drawers of her past.
But the short story of her life she’s left behind grants me the hope that she would have been one of those who pursue their dream.