Friday, December 11, 2009
book review: You Must Be This Happy to Enter by Elizabeth Crane
Personal backstory: I discovered Elizabeth Crane, one of my favorite authors, when her first book of short stories, When the Messenger is Hot, was first published. I read a glowing review in Entertainment Weekly and immediately requested it from the library. When I picked it up, I realized it was short stories. I reread the review, and I decided to read it. To this day, it's one of my favorite books. I eagerly read her second collection of stories, All This Heavenly Glory, and I finally got around to reading her third collection, You Must Be This Happy to Enter.
Review: Short story collections are difficult to review. I'll say this: the first story ("My Life is Awesome! And Great!"), where each sentence ends in an exclamation mark except for those that end in a question mark, was my favorite. I was laughing ridiculously loudly as I read it on the bus, and I didn't care when I missed my stop. The last story, "The Promise," is my other favorite. It's a book that simultaneously inspires me to write and wows me this writer's talents. It's inspiring without being daunting.
Elizabeth Crane's writing is difficult to describe, and I fear I won't begin to do her justice, but here's my best attempt: she writes brilliantly, simply, subtley and with an amazing rawness. She's smart and cool; she's an impossible combination of high-brow and low-brow. You can tell by her varying styles that she's a McSweeney's writer.
The Short of it: Read it. Even if you don't like short stories. If you do, read it now. The entire collection is less than 200 pages. It won't take long. Then check out When the Messenger Is Hot. If I had as much money as Oprah, I would buy a copy of this book for anyone who wanted one. As it is, a few family members and friends may find a copy heading their way soon.
Rating: 5 stars (out of 5 stars) - universally recommended
Publication date: 2008
Source: my local public library