Coffee House Presss confidence in publishing the 21 beautifully
connected stories in this debut collection rivals Appletons confidence
in The Red Badge of Courage. Like The Red Badge, Glory
Goes and Gets Some is wonderfully terrifying in its depiction of
the fear of aloneness. And like Crane, Emily Carter is a young writer
of staggering intelligence and compassion, whose deep insights turn
not on the self-conscious, but on lifes more challenging struggles:
lovelessness, regret, self-understanding, and self-worth, to name a
The collections narrator is Gloria Bronski, a recovering heroin
addict from a well-to-do New York family. Gloria is HIV-positive and
chronically depressedcharacteristics that are, in many ways, immaterial
to Glory in the present of the narrative. For the Glory who once "thought
it glamorous to be self-destructive" and "knew that there
were people who got destroyed whether or not they wanted to be"
is now someone who "cant regard what happened with even the
bitter pride of those who take refuge in their own culpability."
Like Cranes Young Soldier, Glory is alone with the problem of
her aloneness, which is one of her strengths. She is also in the throes
of battle for the first time. We first encounter her walking east on
Houston Street in New York City, where the tantalizing, come-on voices
of men "floated me down toward the river, me with my eyeliner making
my eyes black and green, smeared, shaped like tears, like black and
green chalk-drawing eyes running in the rain." We then accompany
her to Minneapolis, where drug addicts from all over the country come
"with the means, or whose family has the means, to travel far from
the scene of the accident and start over again."
Indefatigable and primed with gentle suffering, Glory embodies endurance,
the shameful alienation from normalcy, and separateness from all of
the people "full of the grace of their various abandonments
far more beautiful than us." Her struggle to survive, her refusal
to give up despite the difficulty of her predicament in many ways reminds
one of the struggles of such characters as Camuss Sisyphus, who
Camus would have us imagine happy once he reaches the top of his solitary
hill. Perhaps one also thinks of Manns Gustav von Aschenbach in
"Death in Venice," someone whose self-worth and strength is
at once preserved upon seeing the lean figure of a young boy called
Tadzio on the Adriatic shore. Like von Aschenbach, Glory renounces her
former self and gains strength by embracing an ideal of hope; she experiences
"the silent breeze of mercy" in Minneapolis as if for the
first time. And like Camuss Sisyphus, Glory manages to find bits
of happiness up the hill of her recovery.
All of the stories provide evidence of Glorys endurance. They
are muscular, fit, but not ungracefully over-worked-out. The narrative
tone is for the most part colloquial, but it entertains the odd moment
of ostensive literacy, the occasional scream. The best stories are courageously
honest without being confessional. The first paragraph of the title
I know women and men who stand in their backyards, safe in the bosom
of their family, at the height of their careers, and stare up into
the old reliable silver-maple tree, mentally testing its capacity
to hold their weight. There is that loneliness that other people cant
alleviate. And then theres that loneliness that they can, which
is what I was dealing with when I put an ad in the personals.
The rest of the story goes on to explore another challenging struggle,
that of unrequited desire.
In the introductory section that precedes "Zameckis Cat,"
a story about a loveless and tough working-class recoverer who could
be anyones friend, the most welcoming voice enters to describe
how a regular might have become a regular in a local bar:
Someone, once, at some point, did not offer comfort when he needed
it. Now, he will never ask for it again. And if someone did put their
hand on his head, to stroke his hair back, he would brush it away
as an intrusion, an irritation, a lie.
Story after story is a model of narrative virtuosity. In "W-L-U-V,"
Glory describes how she invented her own radio station called W-L-U-V
as a girl, and how she understands the impulse of those who call in
to the late night program she listens to called "Night Talk":
You work the night shift, or you work someplace where no one wants
your opinions, or you dont know how to express an opinion; youre
afraid youd look crazy, standing there babbling about your opinion.
Its been so many hours since youve talked to anyone that
your voice cracks when you open your mouth to speak.
In "Luminous Dial," the same radio we have all listened to
returns, a radio that is a metaphor for the unpredictability of fear
theres no getting out of it ever, no getting up to turn
on the light, there will be no light ever again, except from the green
dashboard glow of the digital clock which will never change to the
next minute and no sound either except the sound of my voice replaying
over and over again the litany of times that you failed, or might
fail, or might have failed without knowing it.
There are also moments in the collection that tempt us to shout back
at the page, such as this moment in "Parachute Silk," when
Glory explains that part of her recovery is to make a list of the things
that she will never do and the things that she would never do:
I Will Never jump out of an airplane, but thats a doubleheaderI
Would Never jump out of an airplane, either. Its a conscious
decision, one of the easier ones Ive had to make. What kind
of person would do that, and what do they get out of it, except a
sense of relief when the thing opens correctly?
Self-contradictory, Glory knows very well that she already jumped from
a kind of airplane. Thankfully, her parachute opens correctly. The greatest
message of these magnificent stories is best described by Crane: