The first Barbara Kingsolver I read, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, gave me respect for her writing and passion, even though our core beliefs don’t often align. Small Wonder is a collection of essays written in response to the 9/11 attacks. The first essay, written on 9/12/01, begins sorting out the implications of this changed world. She alternates between a wide-angled view of the world and a macro lens focusing on her closest relationships. The letters to her daughter and to her mother are tender, honest, and vulnerable. Kingsolver’s collection was like a sidewalk: broad expanses that didn’t resonate or where I disagree with her strongly (stridently?) stated premises…and then a little crack where we deeply agree.
My favorite essay, What Good Is a Story, reminded me of thoughts I’d been pondering from N.D. Wilson in this interview. And I nodded and murmured assent while I read The One-Eyed Monster, and Why I Don’t Let Him In. And her turns of phrase, like being flattered and flattened by any kind of male approval, made my heart sing.
What makes writing good? That’s easy: the lyrical description, the arresting metaphor, the dialogue that falls so true on the ear it breaks the heart, the plot that winds up exactly where it should. 209
I love [fiction], strangely enough, for how true it is. If it can tell me something I maybe suspected, but never framed quite that way, or never before had sock me so divinely in the solar plexus, that was a story worth the read. 210
A good short story cannot be simply Lit Lite. It should pull off the successful execution of large truths delivered in tight spaces. 211
The business of fiction is to probe the tender spots of an imperfect world, which is where I live, write, and read. 213
It’s fairly well documented that TV creates a net loss in contentment. 135
Anyone inclined toward chemical sedatives might first consider, seriously, turning off the TV. 141