Somehow, word that yours truly is quite the reader has leaked out to the internets. Which I could not be happier about, because it means that I get lovely offers to read books and tell you, my dears, all about them. Today, I have the pleasure of hosting the online book tour for Catherine Brady’s latest short story collection, The Mechanics of Falling.
Ms. Brady, the 2002 co-winner of the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction, has written a collection of tightly woven stories here that are worth a read. Covering a wide scope of the human experience, Ms. Brady brings to life college girls working in hard luck digs for the summer in her story “Looking for a Female Tenant.” The two students, one well-to-do and wild, one desperately in need of the money, come to summer jobs at a boondocks resort with very different goals but bonded by their solitude. But the bonds of their friendship are tested when their summer changes- due to a gaggle of men and a gripping tragic encounter. In this tightly wound fiction, Brady never wallows in her characters’ traumas (large and small), but skims the surface, leaving the reader to sense the wounds left behind.
While in every short story collection, I am bound to have some favorites and some not-so-favorites, there is very little dead weight in this volume. Each story seemed hand-picked to flow emotionally out of the last smoothly and, with one exception, Brady doesn’t resort to “artistic” style tricks to set the pace or frame the story (and the one time she does, it makes for a great read in “Slender Little Thing”).
It’s refreshing to see the publishing world step outside the trend of “women’s fiction” for once and put out a great little literary fiction collection from a smart author with nary a high heel anywhere and much more similar to Annie Proulx’s stories in their told-from-a-step-back style, than anything on the market. Fans of Proulx will similarly enjoy Brady’s The Mechanics of Falling.
As for me, as always, once I start a collection I don’t put it down. As a writer myself, I like to watch where the editors put in the seams so to speak. Here, they’ve done an excellent job. With minor personal tastes aside, I would say here that they have pulled off making these stories into a whole cloth that Catherine Brady can feel proud of. I’ll be bringing this one along to book club next month and suggesting we all give it a read again.
Interview with Liz Saint John for ALICE 97.3 radio (available online as a podcast)
Catherine Brady’s most recent collection, The Mechanics of Falling & Other Stories, was published in 2009. Her second short story collection, Curled in the Bed of Love, was the co-winner of the2002 Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction and a finalist for the2003 Binghamton John Gardner Fiction Book Award. Brady’s first collection of short stories, The End of the Class War, was a finalist for the 2000 Western States Book Award in Fiction. Her stories have been included in Best American Short Stories 2004 and numerous anthologies and journals including Missouri Review, Ontario Review, Cimarron Review, Kenyon Review, and Redbook, and in anthologies, including Love You to Pieces: Creative Writers on Loving a Child with Special Needs (forthcoming), I Know Some Things: Stories about Childhood by Contemporary Writers, and The Next Parish Over: A Collection of Irish American Writing. A past winner of the Redbook Young Writers Award, Brady is the recipient of the 2001 Zoetrope: All StoryShort Fiction Prize and the Brenda Ueland Prose Prize.
Brady is also the author of a biography of a molecular biologist, Elizabeth Blackburn and the Story of Telomeres: Deciphering the Ends of DNA. Her critical essays on the craft of fiction have appeared in the Writer’s Chronicle.
Brady received an MA in English Literature and Creative Writing from Hollins College and an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Massachusetts. She was elected to the board of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs in 2005 and served as Vice-President (2006) and President (2007). She teaches in the MFA in Writing Program at the University of San Francisco.