- being my favorite book of short stories ever. That’s right, ever. No exceptions, not even Flannery O’Connor.
- saving my sanity one time when my best friend and I were trapped in my cabin in the pouring rain for one million consecutive hours with nothing to do but read and discuss Twin Study.
Twin Study by Stacey Richter has been filling my life with joy since it was published in 2007. The stories are hilarious and delightful and kind of messed up. I’ll tell you about my favorites.
Velvet is the life history of a terrier. It is not one of those stories where the dog is a foil for a sad little Southern boy. This story is just about Velvet; humans are background characters. Richter manages to pull off a story about the interests and misadventures of a dog, because her style has all the zeal and relentless energy of a terrier. I usually do not like literature about dogs, but this one gets me every single time I read it. It contains many amazing sentences such as “The little girl swore to feed her and house-train her and dress her in tiny plaid coats when it rained, but after several weeks spent holding the puppy so constantly that the dog was damp with hand-sweat, her infatuation faded and the care of Velvet reverted to the mistress of the house.”
My Mother the Rock Star is the story of a girl’s thirteenth birthday. She happens to be the daughter of a very famous and very crazy musician. This is the funniest story I have ever read, no contest. It contains the wonderful sentence “My mother says, I gave birth to her thirteen years ago and I still remember the drugs they gave me at the hospital, they were so fucking great.”
Habits and Habitat of the Southwestern Bad Boy is the story of two friends who invite (abduct?) a teenage boy on a trip to the nearby desert to see a giant cow skull. Tension ensues. Here’s a quote: “[. . .]his T-shirt, which seemed to be from a foreign country where English is admired rather than understood. It said: ‘Do To Others As Others Have To You Be.’”
A Case Study of Emergency Room Procedure and Risk Management by Hospital Staff Members in the Urban Facility is a fictional case study and a modernized fairy tale. The premise: a meth-cooking princess consumes too much of her own product and admits herself to the ER. It is hilarious and odd. It is also the story that inspired the pictures that accompany this post.
Over the course of our friendship my best friend and I have had a few debates over the merit of a Dalai Lama quote that goes something like “everyone is trying their best at their own level of consciousness.” She agrees wholeheartedly. I think some people are trying their best, some people are coasting and some people are intentionally being jerks. Personally, there are days when I kick butt, accomplish things and do favors for others. There are also days when I watch six episodes of “Battlestar Gallactica” then go out and say something unkind to someone who irritates me. I am not willing to admit that I was trying my best on those days, because if I was trying my best, I should have been a whole lot better. However, Richter’s characters exemplify that quote. They are truly trying to do their best at their own strange levels of consciousness. They are striving for a better iteration of themselves, a more thrilling existence. Despite the dark kernel of bitterness, doubt and dissatisfaction in the back of their minds they continue to strive.
I really admire Stacey Richter. Her stories are hilarious and dark. Her sentences surprise and entertain you. Her economy of word is impressive. Whether literature resonates with a reader is subjective and personal, but these stories really resonate with me. To quote a friend: “How could anyone not like Twin Study?” I think she is underrated. Everyone should read this book.
You might like this book if:
- you have a sense of humor.
- you have any sense at all.
You might not like this book if:
- I don’t even know. I can’t think of a reason.
Final thoughts: Get your hands on a copy. Read it. You won’t regret it.
Look, sometimes watching BSG back-to-back IS the best I can muster. Maybe it’s your best that fluctuates, not your intention!
Maybe that concept helps you feel better about the world, but it makes me feel shitty about myself. It’s important to me to believe that I’m going to keep trying harder and harder and things will get better and better. If my life isn’t exactly how I want it to be today, it will be better tomorrow, because I can do more than I did today.
Also, I think that 90% of the times when I have done something lame it’s because I wasn’t doing my best in that moment. So, I have a hard time accepting that a person who does something cruel was trying their best at their level of consciousness.
Seems the key to the riddle of “bestness” proposed by the dear Dalai Lama is our “level of consciousness”…
6 episodes of BSG back-to-back…how conscious could you possibly be?
Some days my “level” of consciousness is not high enough to be anything but a jerk. Not an excuse – just true.
Love this blog, Sydney! Keep writing.
Thanks! I will.
If we are always trying our best, why do we tell people to “try their best?” Should we tell them to access a different level of consciousness? What is the point of the concept of trying our best if we are always doing it anyway. . .without trying?
Look, sometimes people have to poop. It’s just part of being human. You’ll die if you don’t poop. Therefore, sometimes doing your best means taking a poop.
Well, sometimes I think we also need to emotional or motivational poop–whether that be watching stupid TV, losing our temper, or flaking out on a friend. It doesn’t mean it’s nice to be around, but we can’t be 100% shiny and perfect all the time. Poop happens. And depending on your level of consciousness, you might have emotional diarrhea (like my mother), or be motivationally constipated (like my father), and so you’re doing your best…even though it kind of sucks to be around you when you’re doing it . . . you know?