The stories themselves are...strange? They're about characters and places and things you'd probably never have any occasion to consider outside these pages — a drunk who sort of unwittingly collects animals in the French countryside, a kid in a poor Boston neighborhood whose mother disappears, a guy whose wife dies and he rents a house and tangles with his landlord about sprucing it up. If there's a common theme to these stories, it's something along the lines of beauty, authenticity, or just meaning is in the eye of the beholder. And while I realize that's a bit nebulous, the trouble for me in connecting these stories is that it's hard to see the forest for the trees amidst such profound, insightful, ingenious writing.
Indeed, instead of telling you more about these stories themselves (which I mostly really enjoyed, despite constantly thinking, "Hmm, that's an odd vehicle for discussing the notion of mortality or art or love), here's a collection of my favorite passage from this fantastic collection.
“You couldn't believe the people who believed that not mentioning sadness was a kind of magic that could stave off the very sadness you didn’t mention — as though grief were the opposite of Rumpelstiltskin and materialized only at the sound of its own name.”
“Most common mistake in the world, believing that physical pleasure and virtue are in any way related, directly or indirectly.”
“It was not nice love, it was not good love, but you cannot tell me it wasn’t love. Love is not oxygen, though many songwriters will tell you that it is; it is not a chemical substance that is either definitively present or absent; it cannot be reduced to its parts. It is not like a flower, or an animal, or anything that you will ever be able to recognize when you see it. Love is food. That’s all. Nothing better nor worse. Sometimes very good. Sometimes terrible.”
“Nothing less tolerable than a godly bird.”
“Nothing sounds more insincere than a parrot speaking French.”
“You can’t just make everything stop so people will look at you.”
"The world goes on. The world will.”
“Happiness was a narrow tank. You had to make sure you cleared the lip.”