Saturday, October 24, 2009

Reads from the Title Story

Thursday night in the exquisitely fine Cornell Fine Arts Museum, Laura van den Berg made a triumphant return to her old college to read from her new book, the short story collection What The World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves Us. And what to say about the poise and smarts of this rising star. Her family circled around her and embraced her from the moment she arrived, and the celebration was large, thorough and complete. So was the fun.

Her stories have a dark surreal edge to them, and like Andrea Barrett she will make inquiry into science and quirky facts along the way. The stories emerge from the interactions of the characters, and she knows to let landscape act as a character, too. In a class of mine the following day, she explained that a story might click for her, in the writing, because of the oddest small thing. In the title story of her collection, she said, when she learned that in Madagascar the earth was red, the whole narrative came together and she was on her way. "Somehow," she said, "that small fact did it."

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