Tuesday, January 31, 2012

How to stop loving someone without even trying.

Man, let me tell you, when you Google "how to stop loving someone," you get some interesting results, to wit, the sixteen steps listed on WikiHow: http://www.wikihow.com/Stop-Loving-Someone.

I think Google has become something of a modern oracle, both hilarious and horrifying (especially the auto-complete feature). For example, the top completes for "how to get" will tell me how to get married in a video game, get rid of fruit flies, get a passport, get rid of bed bugs, and get a girl to like me (I imagine that happens after I'm a passport-holding, bed bug and fruit fly-free individual and I propose to her in Skyrim).

Fortunately, Joan Connor's recipe for quitting love is twelve easy steps, explicated in one of her short stories in a mildly entertaining but frustrating collection.

I find Connor's short stories overly precious, enamored with words and wordplay to the point of weariness, although there are occasional flashes in her less embellished stories. Overall, How To Stop Loving Someone seemed in need of a serious pruning.

In "Men in Brown," a reclusive textbook editor falls in love with her UPS man. In "The Wig," a husband and wife on vacation embark on a role-play that strains their relationship. "The Writing on the Wall," is a pleasingly spare vignette of adolescent awkwardness.

Many of Connor's stories are set in isolated, island settings ("Aground," "Halfbaby," "The Fox," and "Tide Walk") and she displays a sharp eye for detail when her stories aren't slumping under their own fussiness. In "Palimpsest," the last story in her collection, her unraveling obituary writer finds himself "drowning in meaning, a surfeit of meaning, meaning everywhere." Unfortunately, after wading through How to Stop Loving Someone, I know how he felt.

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