“Excellent and lively. There is a sharp wit in many of these stories, the apt metaphor, the turn of phrase that pleases and surprises.” —Marge Piercy
Sprightly, sanguine writing infuses these 13 tales of faulty love and fizzled connections with a compelling energy and likability. The kickoff story in Conner’s new collection, “Men in Brown,” features a solitary woman who works at home in Vermont and develops a crush on her UPS man. The narrator, describing herself as an agoraphobe and claustrophobe who “rattles around in my house like a stray thought,” shares a litany of crushingly depressing dates with men, while fantasizing hilariously about her uniformed delivery man (“all that well-packaged pulchritude”) who remarks smartly on the books delivered to her door because he reads, too. Other stories sound themes of hopeful relationships, mismatched men and women trying desperately to fall in love, like the middle-aged couple out walking along the beach in “The Fox” whose different reactions to the fox (the man needs to get closer to take a picture, the woman is content to observe its beauty) indicate their own elusive link. A couple who meet at a hardware conference, in “What It Is,” later spend several disappointing days together, colliding constantly against leavened expectations and hardened civilities. Connor (History Lessons) catches the zeitgeist fearlessly and with verve.
While it’s true that Connor does, indeed, give precise instructions on how to stop loving someone, as in the
salient title story, she also charmingly conveys how people can fall in love in the first place, as in the
thoroughly winsome “Men in Brown.” Or perhaps they only think they’re falling in love, as in the
trenchant “What It Is.” With characters as quirky as the habitually unlucky Austry Ann, in “If It’s Bad It
Happens to Me,” and Rachel, the daredevil teenager with cold feet in “The Writing on the Wall,” Connor
explores the intimidating and frequently enervating toll that love can take. There’s maternal love, as in the
haunting “Aground,” and marital love gone wrong, in “The Wig.” There’s aging love, as in “The Fox,”
and the unrequited love of “The Folly of Being Comforted.” Throughout, Connor’s facile and clever wordplay and piquant characterizations guide the reader through the minefields and misery, delight and
despair, rewards and recriminations of love in all its guises. --Carol Haggas
In a well-crafted collection that ranges from funny to poignant to the absurd, Connor takes on everything from an infatuation with the UPS man ("Men In Brown") to an alcoholic’s obsession with Janis Joplin ("The Landmark Hotel"). "Men in Brown," the lead story, chronicles a self-imposed recluse’s growing obsession with her UPS delivery guy, with whom she strikes up a conversation about books. The UPS guy reads and is impressed by a woman who also reads. In order to keep him coming back, she obsessively orders things she neither needs nor wants, but can’t seem to interact with him face-to-face. Connor resolves that impasse in a memorable, laugh-out-loud Lucy Ricardo moment. In "What It Is," the author follows an older woman whose hopes of turning a long-distance romance into something real fade faster than a bouquet of cut flowers as she and the man she longs for close the geographical distance between them, then find that expectations often fall short of reality. "Halfbaby" spirits readers inside the mind of an unusual woman leading an unusual life in a remote island community. The sea and shoreline are frequent settings in this collection, and Connor proves herself adept at making both the settings and the emotions of her characters palpable. Sometimes she excels ("The Writing on the Wall"), and at other times she does not ("Palimpsest"). She is an excellent wordsmith who understands the power of language.
The stories in HOW TO STOP LOVING SOMEONE explore the vagaries and vicissitudes of love and lust, of loneliness and loss. Tonally they range from the dark to the darkly comic, from the optimistic to the outright silly. Geographically they wander from Greece to Maine, from Vermont to the fictional Hobson’s Choice, somewhere near Troy, NY. The title story is a mock self-help manual on how to fall out of love; “Men in Brown” is a rollicking account of a woman infatuated with her UPS man; “Aground” is a dark account of male lust and violence on a lonely island in Maine. But wherever Connor’s characters find themselves, whether lucky or unlucky in love, whether in their teens or middle age, they cling tenaciously to the belief that the quest for love is self-validating, that love is yet possible.
TRIM: 6 x 9
PRICE: $15.95 / Paperback Original
Pub Date: October 2011