amreading Commonplace Book

Spoiled Brats: A Collection of Voices

Simon Rich is a literary shapeshifter. A master impersonator.

With his the short story collection Spoiled Brats, I was no longer reading words. My earlobes were nailed to each sentence, listening for the voice.

Whether it was a desperate, widowed, classroom pet hamster:

They buried my wife in a shoe box in Central Park. I like to imagine that the funeral was respectful, that her body was treated with a modicum of dignity. But of course I’ll never know. I wasn’t invited to the ceremony. Instead, the guests of honor were the students of homeroom 2K.

Her killers.

Or a time traveling, pickle factory worker, adapting to a modern Brooklyn he doesn’t recognize:

As the saying goes in Slupsk: “Sometimes you must drink milk right out of the goat, because it costs two rubles instead of the three rubles.”

I think about this saying as I walk the streets of Brooklyn. There are so many decadent restaurants, each one more luxurious than the last. I pass one named in honor of the pirate Long John Silver, which serves assorted treasures from the sea. Then I pass one that serves chicken that is crisped, in the style of Kentucky. Most amazing to me is a large white castle that sells Salisbury steaks between two breads. Their food is so rich I can smell it from the street. My stomach is rumbling, but I know that these places are beyond me. Their signs are spelled out with electric flashing lights. If I want to survive, I must find someplace more humble.

Or even Death himself, picking up some pro bono work:

“Then why are you here?” Tim asked, a slight edge in his voice.

“To kill your dreams.”

He topped off Pete’s scotch.

“It’s a new thing I’m doing,” he explained. “Claiming lives is depressing. I mean, it can be fun, in a ‘gotcha’ sort of way. But it doesn’t do the person any good. By the time I show up at a guy’s doorstep, it’s too late for him to change his ways. That’s why I’ve decided, pro bono, to tell people when their dreams have definitively died. So they can move on with their lives.”

Rich’s encyclopedia of voices alone, is a reason to keep Spoiled Brats on your nightstand.

amreading Commonplace Book

Whales on Stilts! – A fun, thrill packed adventure tale…


This was fun.

I met Whales on Stilts! in a used book store and fate took it from the there.

Real talk, author M.T. Anderson sprinkled in all the essential storytelling spices and herbs, including words like:

cada man who behaves dishonourably, especially towards women.

vestibulean antechamber or hall just inside the outer door of a building.

cetaceanan order of marine mammals comprising the whales, dolphins, and porpoises.

sinister – suggestive of evil or harm.

(you’re welcome for that jump in your SAT scores)

dialogue that burns with Shakespearean fire:

“I am cleverly disguised,” he explained, “as the photocopier repairman of the future, when man, through his ingenuity, will conquer even the farthest reaches of space, and need to make duplicates of things.”

– Jasper

“Everyone wants to get back to the place the know best,” said Lily’s grandmother. “When you are old, though, sometimes that place is not just far away on the map but far away in time. How do you get home, then when home is in another era?”

– Lily’s grandmother

thrilling 5 fisted action:

Cars were stopped in the middle of roads so people could run into discount clothing stores. Smoke was pouring out of the gas station. A pop machine had ruptured; dogs licked up Dr. Pepper from the pavement.

And somewhere in all of that chaos, Lily’s grandmother lived.

and all the 3,000 leagues below the Mariana Trench deep stuff:

A whale. It was a whale, a walking whale on stilts, with deadly laser-beam eyes. Her grandpa had always said this time would come.

M.T. had me turning pages, underlining bits of dialogue, and writing back at him in the margins.

Whales on Stilts! is a worthy read. You’ll laugh from your belly, and cry from your ears – and isn’t that all we want from a book?