A friend who’s taking a meditation class tells me she’s learning that if you don’t want to suffer, you must stop clinging.
To fully absorb that concept, I recommend Pam Durban’s wise and gorgeously-crafted second collection of stories, “Soon.” In each story, someone or something is clinging to something, which in most cases reduces the richness of present life.
In “The Jap Room,” a husband clings to memories of action in World War II. Says his wife, “… you couldn’t look far into his eyes without hitting rock.” In “Gravity,” an elderly Charleston woman “with a drifting canoe of a mind,” clings to the memory of her black housekeeper, Mamie, and ignores her own devoted daughter.
In “Keep Talking,” a woman watches her neighbor die, but clings to a story that she saved his life. Death’s silence stuns her. She used to believe that for death to come in, “there had to be a kicked-in-door, a broken window, some violence or omen.” In “Birth Mother,” a boy who’s been adopted into a welcoming family clings to the idea that his biological mother will rise from the dead and come for him.
And a mother in “Forward, Elsewhere, Out,” clings to her adolescent son who’s falling in love. She know what she needs is “… surrender, and maybe a ceremony to mark ends and beginnings, the way women in India give away one precious object every year, to practice letting go.”
These stories are ripe for soul-bearing discussion.
Durban, a native of Aiken, S.C., and author of three novels, is the Doris Betts Distinguished Professor of Creative Writing at UNC-Chapel Hill. I almost wish she didn’t teach so a third collection would in our hands sooner.
University of South Carolina Press, 115 pages.
Appearance: At 11 a.m. Saturday, Durban will be at McIntyre’s Books in Fearrington Village