Monday, August 27, 2007

True Tales of American Life edited by Paul Auster

Highly recommended.

In 1999, America's National Public Radio invited listeners to send in their true life short stories. Stories that were true, but sounded like fiction, to be read on-air as part of the National Story Project. The response was overwhelming: more than 4,000 submissions were received and this book is a collection of 180 of the most fascinating submissions.

I really enjoyed the stories in this book. They are all short, mostly two or three pages, but they are such a reflection of human experience - happiness, sadness, regret, love, tragedy, comedy and almost unbelievable cooincidence. Knowing that these are all "true" stories adds a layer of emotional engagement and there were stories that made me wipe away a tear on the bus on the way to work.

Some of the stories are better than others, of course, but as each story is only a few pages, you never feel that you have wasted your time. The book is divided in sections i.e. Animals, Objects, Love, Death, War etc in an attempt to organise the stories sensibly. I found the stories in the "War" section incredibly intense; I often had to close the book after reading a particularly good (or bad, depending how you look at it) story. Just to gather my thoughts before moving on to the next one.

The only slight criticism of the book is that the final section "Meditations" was the weakest section of the book to me. It seemed a shame that these were at the end of the book, when we had read so many stronger stories in the beginning. However, this is only a small criticism - afterall there is nothing to stop you reading the stories randomly, dipping in and out as you please.

No comments: