elsewhere || “Almost the Whole Story: The Secret Lives of People in Love by Simon Van Booy,” at POC-Metakritiko

My review of Simon Van Booy’s lovely short story collection, The Secret Lives of People in Love, is up on The Philippine Online Chronicles. [For the record, Mr. Van Booy, I would've killed for that title.] A snippet from the review:

Though the nineteen short stories revolve around love and its many forms, it is “secret” that is the operative word. Defining events in the characters’ lives are mentioned, hinted at, but rarely revealed, almost never elaborated on, although those secrets reverberate throughout the characters’ lives – death, divorces, accidents, disappearances, even origins. It takes guts, especially when common thought bids a writer to ease the reader into the story, to get on the reader’s good side by offering him glimpses of lives. In this collection, Van Booy has taken Anne Sexton’s words to heart – “Tell almost the whole story” – and has elevated it.

Let me give you a spoiler of the review: I loved this book, to itty bits and pieces. There’s just something so unabashedly earnest about the entire thing. And yes, forgive me, heartbreaking. How does one react to lines like, My wife is deaf. Once she asked me if snow made a sound when it fell and I lied. We have been married twelve years today, and I am leaving her, which hits you at the beginning of a story? Or something like, I want to feel it somehow happened like that because things happen for a reason. I want to believe this more than anything because if it were just an accident, then God must have died before he could finish the world. Oh, my heart. [Also, Simon Van Booy is cute.]

Aherm. If you’re partial to reviews that tell you the reviewer liked the book, without the reviewer having to resort to phrases like “itty bits and pieces,” and calling the author — for shame! — cute, then I suggest y’all head on over there. Please and thank you!

And many many thanks to Erica of HarperPerennial!

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8 comments

  1. Cute in a sort of “I’m Johnny Depp’s grandfather and I’ve travelled through time from the 1930s to be here” sort of way?

    He does look like he’s come out of the past in that picture.

    That snow line is painful to read (which I don’t mean in a bad way). Cruel stuff.

  2. Ack! This is a phenomenal review and now I am desperate to read some Van Booy. And isn’t that what the very best reviews do? That line about snow shattered my heart in the very best possible way…

  3. [...] in the Sun, by Adolfo Bioy Casares, was for The Philippine Online Chronicles. [4] I reviewed The Secret Lives of People in Love, by Simon Van Booy, also for The Philippine Online [...]

  4. @Max & Steph:

    That line about snow just knocked me senseless. The first line, and so calculatingly cruel.

    Steph, thank you so much. It was a fascinating book, very beautiful. The danger was taking it all in, one after the other. But I eventually learned that it was best to restrain myself, because the beauty of it could be dizzying. In a puke-y way. Eek.

    And, Max, before you brought that up, I’ve never examined the appeal: He’s just really cute, hahaha. Oh, that brocade-y vest and the typewriter!

  5. I read your blog and I tried to look for this book at Fully Booked today, but they had none on stock. I ended up bying Love Begins in Winter. I hope it’s good. >_<

    1. Hi, Camille. :] I haven’t even read Love Begins in Winter, and I’m kind of envious right now, haha. I hope you like that! And I hope you find Secret Lives too. :]

  6. [...] The Secret Lives of People in Love, by Simon Van Booy [...]

  7. [...] on my book purchase: I wanted to buy The Secret Lives of People in Love because Sasha blogged about it, but it wasn’t on the shelf. But the other book was, so I ended up buying it instead. [...]

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