We Could Be Like That Couple
In her first book, Sarah Steinberg does certain things really well. For one, there's her brevity and sparse style: language is smart and pared back and sentences are mostly simple constructions that read smoothly. This is also helped by the book's design, by former Haligonian designer Gillian MacLeod (the cover and title pages' loose, freehand type conjures the tools of pen and paper). The stories shift from one state of mind to another---infatuation, boredom and loneliness---showing how they can catch these female protagonists in their grip. Regardless of gender, readers will smirk at their own reflections in these characters sealed in a bubble, cut off from the world and people around. The finest examples of the six stories are "At Last At Sea," about an oblivious and annoying mother and her suffering daughter who take a cruise together, and "It's Fine!," which exposes the foolish, mind-numbing processes and protocols of retail workspaces. The downside of this collection nags at you throughout the reading and, unfortunately, stays with you as the major mark of this book: These aren't finished stories, but sketches for, or parts of, complete stories. The narratives don't end as much as they sharply drop off, landing with a thud, as if endings are unnecessary.