The Sunday Magazine: Back Talk by Danielle Lazarin

There are times when I worry that one of my favorite literary forms is slowly disappearing; the short story. With less and less of the print literary outlets available the basic topsoil, where the form thrived, is eroding away. I was talking to a colleague about what we were reading, she told me she was reading an incredibly relevant book of short stories about women. When I asked she told me the name of the book was Back Talk by Danielle Lazarin. After finishing it I am still considering the perspective that was presented to me.

I am not sure how Ms. Lazarin convinced a publisher to release a book of short stories. One way might have been that there is a connective thread which runs throughout. These are stories of women at all stages of life mostly dealing with experiences anyone has gone through. In one story a girl experiences the loss of her mother and the bloom of first love. There is one which covers the nature of how women experience power as a transaction becomes a battle. An emotionless summary of the men a woman has no love for until she ends her narrative with, “I’ve forgotten too much, or maybe I just refused to learn it.” It is that kind of summation that recolors the story I just finished in a different hue. Is the narrator a free spirit or an empty one? Allowing every experience to flow through her without sticking?

Danielle Lazarin (Photo: Sylvie Rosokoff)

Throughout all the stories they feel like snapshots of the mundane female perspective. Like a conversation I will never be privy to because of my gender. Ms. Lazarin finds a way to make it all seem spontaneous

The story which continues to rattle around in my head is “Gone”. It is the story of two teenage girls who start keeping a book of the dead in a composition notebook. Entwined through the incidents they would record are the joys of best friends who, at that age, feel like the only one who understands you. As the ledger is discovered, with lots of parental concern, there is a pivotal moment of defiance practiced with silence and crossed arms. This leads to their separation and knowledge that this relationship was on its way to being added to their list. Ms. Lazarin’s style of writing is evocative in every single story here but the loss of friendship feels like a death in this story.

In these early days of 2018 with #MeToo movement in ascendance stories of women living their lives showing that each of those acts also carry significance too seems especially prescient.

Mark Behnke

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