Buzzed Books #2 by Alise Hamilton
Recommendation: I Want to Show You More: Stories by Jamie Quatro
Jamie Quatro’s book I Want to Show You More, with its original and eye-catching cover, is a debut full of unique stories and damn good writing. Of the fifteen stories in the collection, seven tackle the same story line from different angles: a mother of small children, engaged in or ending a long-distance and passionate, albeit unconsummated, extramarital affair.
The linked story collection is one of my favorite forms—I’ve read and studied it extensively—but in Quatro’s collection I found something entirely different. These separate, but clearly connected stories, are interspersed throughout the collection, placed next to entirely unrelated tales. The reader easily suspects the protagonist, the woman engaged in these affairs, to in fact be the same person, which of course links the stories not only by theme, but by character, too.
These stories are deeply emotional, as this woman wrestles with her passions, her spirituality, and her identity. By removing sex from the equation, Quatro ramps up the stakes. It is as if the relationships presented are more complicated by the lack of physicality to them. In “Holy Ground,” the woman confesses her affair to her pastor, explaining she has never touched the other man. “An emotional affair,” the pastor says and the woman agrees, adding that it was physical as well. When the pastor doesn’t seem to understand, she explains, “The sharing of ideas…the composing, together, of an elaborate fiction.”
I do not want to suggest the other stories in the collection are simply fillers—that is far from the truth. In fact, one of my favorites is “Ladies and Gentlemen of the Pavement,” a surrealist, dystopian tale about marathon runners—but the ordering of the stories in I Want to Show You More is so effective, it is hard to ignore. By returning again and again to the same subject, Quatro creates a kind of obsessive mood. We feel the narrator working out the same problem again and again, yet always returning to the same tragic conclusion. In this way, Quatro deftly uses structure to create tension. She wrestles with communication technology—email, Garage Band, camera phones—with ease, where another author’s handling could easily come off clunky or forced.
But then, Quatro handles many difficult subjects that wouldn’t work in the hands of a less adept writer. She isn’t afraid to go to dark places, to allow her characters to make mistakes and to feel deeply. I can’t wait to see what she has in store for us next.
Pair with: A six-pack of Corona.
Alise Hamilton earned her MFA from Lesley University and holds a BFA in creative writing, literature, and publishing from Emerson College. Her short fiction appeared in the Francesca Lia Block-edited anthology Love Magick.