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Another fine mess

Reader fan critic teacher reader fan.

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If You're Not Yet Like Me - Edan Lepucki Pretty damn wonderful.

I've now read this three times. I confess: I know Edan, but I don't like anyone that much to make me rave (rather than issue a polite 4-star "Huzzah!" with exactly that kind of formal stiffness which ought to give readers of such reviews pause), let alone re-read. (Who's got time? There are incoherent action thrillers to stream on Netflix, and facebook profiles to stalk.) It's a significant fact, as you take stock of this rave, that I re-read three times, against all precedent and prevailing wisdom.

Let's be honest: I read it three times because its brevity invited return.

But let's be clear: each return was a renewal of joy, my pleasures progressing from voice (swaggering and sweet and self-loathing in equal measures; stage one) to purpose (a brilliant comic embrace of human failing, keyed like the best comic writing to forgiveness and hope, even as the narrative turns with a sneer at pathos--more on this in a moment; stage two) to prose (ohhhhhhhhhh wooooooooooow; stage three).

Stage three just completed. And, e.g.,

On long car rides, I saw myself running along the freeway shoulder, or in the brush, barefoot but in full armor.

Read that aloud. There's a song in the riffs of the repeated r's and f's and percussive buh's (buhrush, buharefoot, buhut). I hear Joellyn so precisely, and I almost don't care what she's saying, I just want to close my eyes and hear her sing more.

The next two sentences:
I assumed the woman I'd become would be vicious and beautiful, the roar of some exotic animal made physical. It's not so strange, to have high expectations.

I think it's hard to write comedy, to be a comic writer. Far harder than wringing easy tears out of identification-happy modern readers, seeking out the next big Painful Event to cathartically endure and fret about. But, instead, the comic writer rebuffs easy embraces: Joellyn's self-deprecation doesn't simply supersede her narcissism, and her clear-eyed assessments of her own pain are tempered by the incisive way Lepucki reveals how J causes pain, and the precise way she uses a comma, an aside, a finely-crafted sentence to tease out a laugh. This isn't merely softening blows, the sugar of a comic line sweetening the painful medicine of Real Writing, or throwing in a pah-dum-pum rimshot and shtick to turn the work, like treacly soft-spined taffy, into another Hollywood-ready Dramedy. No. This is the revelatory precision of a great writer whose style is perfectly attuned to her clarity about--her harsh judgment of and her generous refusal to punish--human behavior. This is Atwood-good, people.

This is one of the best works published last year -- a great novella coupled, in the mainstream edition, with an even better short story. It's the first of what will surely be a stream of amazing works. Edan is an astounding writer.