Friday, January 1, 2010

Review in Miniature - Forgetting English


I decided to begin 2010 doing exactly what I wanted.This morning instead of jumping out of bed to start the day, I allowed myself to indulge in a few more stories from Forgetting English, this stellar debut collection by Midge Raymond.  Each story takes place in a different location: Tonga, Japan, Tanzania, and Taiwan, to name but a few. I could stay in bed and still travel around the world. A perfect day.

Midge Raymond writes in such a way as to keep me utterly engaged. The stories are character driven in that the psychological complexities of the women (and so far, the protagonists are all women)  propel the narrative forward, but the intricacies of the plot are expertly constructed on a lyrical scaffold. One of my favorites "Rest of World" tells the story of a woman executive traveling from country to country, firing employees as she comes to terms with her husband's infidelity. In each hotel room she can slip on the identity of the last occupant or pick-up phone messages meant for another guest. It is only after I finished reading the story that I realized the woman was never named.

Do short stories operate in a way like poems? I am drawn to the metaphorical level of each of these pieces. In "The Ecstatic Cry" which takes place in Antarctica, humans and penguins are examined side by side, each somehow elevated by the comparison. Always the stories are nuanced and exist on multiple levels. I've saved one story for tonight; this is a book I don't want to finish. However, I know Forgetting English is a book that I'll be returning to again.

If you are a poet, if you are a traveler, if you are a person who loves powerful writing, treat yourself to a copy for the start of a new year. Forgetting English will not disappoint, but it will make you want to travel - or stay the day in bed.


  1. Nice - thanks for sharing this review, Susan! I always look forward to travel lit - this one looks great.

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  3. I agree, this is a fine collection.

  4. I especially liked "Translation Memory." Midge is amazing.