“I Want To Show You More,” by Jamie Quatro
Reviewed By Nina Schuyler
April 29th, 2013
While a short story collection can be knitted together in a lot of different ways—character, theme, setting, subject matter or tone—how tightly it should be woven is less defined. Some collections are so knotted that all the life is wrung out of them. Others are so loose it feels as if the writer had to dig deep to fill up pages.
In her debut collection, I Want to Show You More, Jamie Quatro has accomplished a rare paradox: the collection is stitched together and, yet, it’s loose and baggy, letting in a lot of surprise. Short shorts live next to long stories; surrealism is neighbors with realism. You can hear the murmurs of Flannery O’Connor, and also George Saunders, Lorrie Moore and Donald Barthelme. Thematic threads hold some of it together—God, transcendence, adultery, running, illness, and family. And in a few of the stories, we revisit some of the same characters.
The stories are all set in Lookout Mountain, Georgia, which straddles Georgia and Tennessee. It’s a perfect metaphor for Quatro’s collection: bagginess and a tight weaving coexisting. It’s bound to frustrate some readers and delight others. But that’s one of the risks of taking a risk.
One of the most prevalent themes is adultery, which is sprinkled throughout the book through a series of stories. The collection opens with “Caught Up,” in which the narrator reveals her affair to her mother. The narrator has spent ten months talking daily to her lover on the phone. The affair never is consummated, but in her mother’s view, it might as well have: “It’s all the same in God’s eyes,” says her mother.
Throughout, Quatro is not cynical about God or Christian beliefs. The narrators (women) in the adultery string of stories grapple with lust, passion, guilt, and God. The adulterous narrator appears again in “Imperfections,” a two-page story in which the man kisses the narrator’s forehead. The kiss makes her right eye burn, “Like you put a seal on my forehead, I wrote to him later, and hot wax dripped down into my eye.” And she returns again in other short pieces, which begin to feel like the heavy, complicated breathing of two lovers held apart.
The rest of the review is on The Rumpus: http://therumpus.net/2013/04/i-want-to-show-you-more-by-jamie-quatro/
Causes Nina Schuyler Supports
National Resources Defense Council