Outstanding review, Robin. I read this book when it first came out and loved it. Now I want to read it again.

I loved this: "We chroniclers of the quotidian struggle daily (in a quotidian kind of way) with the problem of how one crafts exceptional literature from unexceptional events."

As well as this of course: "A marital spat gone awry can be more damaging--and more compelling--than an armed gunman any time. Real drama is to be found in what happens between us all, every day."

Anna, I enjoyed visiting your blog. We have similar reading interests and some overlap in the books we actually read!

Great post-thanks!

Wonderful review, Robin!

This is a wonderful review of the second best book I've read this year. The best book is yours, Robin Black, which I finished a few hours ago and which reminded me of Olive Kitteridge, a book I enjoyed greatly, at several points.

I have never been drawn to a book of short stories as I was to If I loved you, I would tell you this. Never. I didn't want it to end, yet I could neither put it down nor turn out the light and go to sleep over the three days that I enjoyed it. How happy I am to find this review and learn that you also appreciated Olive Kitteridge so much.

I can also relate to the sentiment that "with other people producing books this good, what exactly is the point?" though I am pleased to say that while reading your book I was, in fact, inspired. I am too often disappointed by what contemporary publishing puts out and find myself gravitating toward nonfiction or reading and rereading classics.
I am already grateful that you kept at it and am heartened to learn that you spent eight years on those ten magnificent stories (I do not have a favorite; they are all that good).

I know my praise is not something for the book jacket that will help sell more copies, but I imagine that it might be nice to know that an ordinary person was drawn to your book on the library shelves one day when she went to pick up her son from his after-school program and that in reading it she had an extraordinary experience. Thank you.

Dear Abigail Sawyer,

Thank you so very, very much for taking the time to tell me that - and to write such a thoughtful, generous comment. I sometimes wonder whether "ordinary people" - meaning our most valued readers - understand how important and moving and motivating their appreciation and respect can be. And also how it can help recenter a writer on what the whole point is after all.

We live in an era in which it is difficult at times not to focus too much on the sorts of things that help sell books, that are part of the endless - seemingly endless - marketing machine. On what is "in" and what one is "supposed to be" writing. But truly the only reason to write is to communicate with a reader, to be part - if you are really lucky - of somebody's "extraordinary experience." In fact, the only reason to write is to write. And a comment like yours is the best kind of reminder of that fact.

I'll be rereading this one a few times as I work on the work that comes next.

Thank you, very much.

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  • Isak is a space to celebrate tales and truth in the curious, joyful way embodied by the writer for which it is named. The name "Isak," after all, means "laughter," as she was fond of pointing out.

    By tales, I mean fiction (especially short fiction), as well as other literary and artistic narratives. By truth, I mean the world in which we live. I especially have my eye on creative social justice.

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