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Tutor Istvan Zoltan Zardai 's Column

Lucia Berlin's excellent short stories

Sep 1, 2020

Lucia Berlin's stories are loosely based on her own life. If you pick up the book you'll find at the start a short text about her written by one of her sons, and at the end by a fellow writer and teacher. Both emphasize how much of an achievement it was that Lucia published as much as she did. And one has good reason to be impressed not only with the quantity, but also with the quality.

Berlin's style takes forward the best elements of Hemingway's and Raymond Carver's writing: she uses short, to the point sentences, her metaphors are sensual and aid the imagination effectively. There isn't much vagueness, and important things are said, or not said in a way that emphasizes them naturally, without artifice.
The writing is flowing, and a characteristic of many stories is the impressive ability to conjure real living, breathing characters through stunningly short introductions. When you're reading Luna Nueva or Noel, 1974, you'll very quickly see the characters in front of your inner eyes, despite the fact that these well crafted brief stories move a cast of often 5-15 or more characters. One is reminded somewhat about the style of Bernard Malamud, who could masterfully evoke very definite ideas of characters relying only on 3-4 sentences.

Overall it was a very special privilege to read these stories. It was worth reading it and I hope to revisit these stories in the future.

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