Thursday, March 22, 2012

Finished: "Separate Kingdoms" by Valerie Laken

Finished: Separate Kingdoms by Valerie Laken, 2011, 9780060840945.

Shortest version: The first story sucked. Then the stories got better and better until I was getting stuck in them.

Short version: Blond gal from Milwaukee writes short stories. Many stories have a autobiographical bent. Stories told from male and female perspective. Several stories set in USSR or Russia. I will not try to list a recurring theme. Laken has a link to a Find A Library search on her website.

Version: Some of these were really good. I'm glad I pushed through the first one. I disliked the first one because the protagonist, a 12-yr-old blind Russian boy, seemed to be heading towards tragedy. No tragedy happened but I was very uneasy at the prospect. Interestingly enough, Laken has some brief notes about each story in the back of the book and she was exploring the barrier of crossing from child to adult in this story. There are some uncomfortable experiences of my own at that age that color my desire to read anything like that.

One story has a lesbo couple going to Russkie land to adopt. They have to fake being pals since gay couples are not allowed to adopt but single people are. The two women are quite a bit different in personality and the narrator is both stressed and joyful at adopting. The narrator is more maternal than her wife/partner/girlfriend/whatever but has to try and hide her excitement and love from everyone. After they are shown a second, additional child from the one they were expecting they have to make a choice. But, the narrator has already fallen in love with the first kid by memorizing his photo. The wife wants the second child. Narrator has to balance love for a child versus her love for her wife. Agonizing.

Another story has a 31-year-old sales guy getting seizures. The seizures freeze him up as if he is transported forward in time by a minute or two. Not a good thing when you drive everywhere for work.

1. Would it have killed the fucking publisher to list the story names at the top of the page instead of the damn book title?
2. Regarding the adoption story Laken says a job interviewer "asked me to talk about the gender politics of this story, which made me consider climbing out the window."
3. Laken put out a novel before Separate that sounds interesting. I'll have to run it down.
4. And kill it.
5. Run it down and kill it.
6. With fire.
7. And Marshmallows.
8. And put the fire out with lake water.
9. And get the kids home for bath.
10. Then have another beer.

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