In an effort to help choose potential gifts for the holidays, we asked Goose Lane authors on what book that they would give to everyone if they could. Today, in part two, authors Michelle Butler Hallett and Shauna Singh Baldwin tell us what the holiday spirit impels them to give.
Michelle Butler Hallett, author, This Marlowe
The Complete Stories of Flannery O'Connor
- Flannery O'Connor, author
Short stories get a short shrift in this country, too often treated as finger exercises to warm up for novel-writing. Short stories and novels are distinct art forms. O'Connor's stories often start out quiet and funny and quicly become, by turns, odd, unsettling, and terrifying. She writes about isues and acts of faith, and capital M Mysteries, something unfashionable for intellectuals of her own time and for ours. She was such an outsider—a college-educated and devoutly Catholic woman in very Protestant Georgia, unmarried—and, while some readers accuse her of judging her characters, I see her struggling alongside them.
For all that, I consider her no saint. (She'd be horrified at the very idea, for a start.) Her time and context mark her; in her private correspondence, you'll find the taints of homophobia and racism.
A final note: I admire how O'Connor confronted and lived with her aggressive autoimmune disease. I have one of my own, aggressive, but, for the moment, slinking into a cage. I expect it to lash out—any moment. O'Connor's proved fatal. She wrote—and wrote so very well—expecting death. For that quiet strength of self, as well as for the flawed and terryfing beauty of her work—for the deep difficulty of big ideas presented in such clear prose—I want to share O'Connor with everyone I know.
Shauna Singh Baldwin, author, We Are Not in Pakistan, English Lessons and Other Stories, recommends:
The Ten Incarnations of Adam Avatar
- Kevin Baldeosingh, author
In hope of eluding his nemesis the Shadowman who kills him each time he turns 50, 49-year-old Adam Avatar reveals his ten lifetimes to a psychologist. And Trinidadian writer Baldeosingh carries us into different periods and actors in the ghastly history of slavery and indenture. Avatar's experiences begin in Haiti and take him to Vatican City, Brazil, Portugal, Jamaica, Trinidad, India and many other parts of the world. The brilliance of this novel lies in its historical sweep, and the many varieties of English we inhabit in the voices of an Amerindian, a Conquistador priest, a slaver, a white indentured servant, a female pirate, a slave, a master, a stickfighter, and an Indian. Its beating heart lies in the paradoxes his characters must navigate as Christian missionary zeal battles Compassion, all across the planet.
Mirrors: Stories of Almost Everyone
- Eduardo Galeano, author
- Mark Fried, translator
In 600 powerful and beautifully translated stories, the late Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano tells the history of humankind. Stories set in several countries offer the point of view of the victims of patriarchy, empires, colonization, religion, slavery, capitalism, socialism, and wars down the ages. This book feels powered by understated outrage and a predilection for the ironic. It should be read slowly and considered deeply.