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Making Light of Tragedy Paperback – Sep 15 2004

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Great, great short story collection. June 24 2005
By Glenn Raucher - Published on
Format: Paperback
It would be too easy to sum up Jessica Grant's "Making Light of Tragedy" by referencing its title. Yes, there are stories that use suicide bombing as a punch-line. Yes, characters laugh at the death of many thousands of people--even if they occurred long ago, and were only undertaken by the person a character is dressed as for a party at a Toronto club. Yes, there are stories where pitfalls that level characters are sources of humor.

It would be too easy. There is great sadness in this book unrelieved by laughter. There is also great humor in this book, added on to moments of pure joy--where characters find they have arrived at a point they've desired; and find themselves as surprised, and uplifted, as we are, with them all the way on their particular, and in some cases, seemingly directionless journeys.

And it is a tribute to Jessica Grant that when her characters arrive at their destinations, it seems as much of a surprise to the characters in many cases, as it may to us, and perhaps, even to the author. These stories emerge, whole, almost seeming to show up on the page as we read them, like a photo slowly revealing itself in the developer.

These stories are filled with cutting, precise wit, astonishing, original imagery--I particularly love some of the seeming throwaway lines, like "The sky on the other side of the ceiling threatened rain," from "Tuan Vu"--and despite the idiosyncratic nature of many of Jessica Grant's characters, true one-to-one human connection, over and over again, in situations where connection would seem unlikely, if not impossible. She manages a wonderful, delicate balancing act--making us laugh, and enjoy, while never letting us off the hook. It's a superb work.