Sunday, November 10, 2013

Fools by Joan Silber

The six finely-crafted stories in Joan Silber's Fools are about anarchists, our better natures and our worst. New York Marxists in the 1920s, conscientious objectors imprisoned during WWII, the Occupy Wall Street movement -- I love the way they are all loosely interconnected, with characters and places from one story popping up tangentially in another.

The stories are around 40 pages long, enough time to really get into the characters, their lives, and the many possibilities there are for learning from one's folly.

The title story opens with these lines:

" A lot of people thought anarchists were fools. I finished high school in 1924, and even during my girlhood, when the fiercest wing of anarchists still believed in "propaganda by deed" and threw bombs and shot at world leaders, people thought they did it out of a bloody kind of sappiness, a laughable naivete. All this laughing, I came to think, ignored the number of things a person could be a fool for in this life -- a fool for love, a fool for Christ, a fool for admiration. I had friends who were all of these, as it turned out. But I took my own route."

What struggles we have in making our actions congruent with our ideals. Fools is an enthralling collection.

Readalikes: Runaway (Alice Munro); Bobcat (Rebecca Lee); The Imperfectionists (Tom Rachman).

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