Blooming

I KEEP SLIPPING BACK into Amy Bloom’s recent collection, Where the God of Love Hangs Out. Not in the flipping-back-to-the-best-lines way. I’m experiencing a different sort of pull. The book is nagging at me, but in the best possible way. I might not have said that a week ago when I put the book down on a stack in my office to “go out” — top of my share pile — rather than shelve it next to the other Bloom books. It wasn’t that the book didn’t sit well, it’s just that it at first didn’t sit. It sort of fidgeted in my head and I didn’t know what to do with it. I’m drawn to the shadows in Bloom’s work — her short stories in particular. They can be evasive, elliptical, lush and terrifying — sometimes all at once. (The collection, A Blind Man Could See How Much I Love You, is a book I’ve given as a gift multiple times. The mood and rhythms of those stories remained with me in a different way. ” . . . God of Love” is different: These aren’t quite “short stories,” nor are they completely novellas, rather they are interlocking vignettes that spin not so much a story but tell you a little something about a life arc — what happens when a decision is made (or not) and how that choice imprints on one’s life — forever. She plays with the shadow-picture dance of indentity — sexual, racial, gender — and how some definitions are as porous as you do or don’t preceive them. Bloom’s characters edge their way deep into taboo territories — adultery, incest, betrayal — all the while employing unblinking double-vision, torn, ambivalent — human. These too are terrifying stories — shocking, shadowy and they resonate with all the permutations of “love” — particularly those we have yet to find language to define.
Afterward, you feel as if you have spent the good portion of a winter’s night playing charades, gossiping in the kitchen, walking off the butter, alcohol and the too-intense stare. Much later, everyone’s tucked into their cars, speeding back into their lives. Now, alone inside, the gathering done, the imprint of the guest still fresh in the folds of the sofa.

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