Friday, March 6, 2015

Frog Hospital

As I've said before, I love Lorrie Moore. She gets me. She's never met me, so what I mean is, I get her. I get her humor, her song references, her use of the word "schweetie" as a term of endearment. On a recent business trip, I reread Who Will Run the Frog Hospital? which I liked even better this time around, no doubt because I am older on this second read--not an aspiring short story writer in my thirties but more of "[a] disillusioned, middle-aged woman," as in the opening sentence of this book review from Publishers Weekly. So I get the whole looking-back-on-one's-childhood thing, seeing it all differently. Wanting to be kinder, understanding one's limits, and others' generosity.

Here's what leapt out at me this time, a young girl's insight after being sent off to summer camp because she did something wrong (in an effort to do something loving), as she tries to answer her mom's question about what she learned:

"What I'd learned at camp, from all the vesper readings, mostly, was that you didn't give back to the same people who gave to you. 'Let's see," I said, stalling. You didn't give back to the same people at all. You gave to different people. And they, in turn, gave to someone else entirely. Not you. That was the sloppy economy of gift and love."

This paragraph goes on, but here I gasped at the connection to The Gift, by Lewis Hyde, which I'd also been re-reading recently, all about the "gift economy." (Here's a bit of conversation about The Gift at Escape Into Life.) How many times will I have to learn this, I wonder?

"But that was living as a Christian--a practical Christian, but a Christian nonetheless," continues Berie in her mind, trying to find the words to answer her mom. "This, I realized, my parents already understood. Though it was probably not what they'd hoped I'd learn. 'I learned that God is eternal benevolence,' I said finally, a little breathlessly."

Speaking of book reviews, and of Escape Into Life, there are a couple new ones up--a review by Seana Graham of An Experiment in Love, by Hilary Mantel, a slimmer volume than Wolf Hall, and a review by me of The Robot Scientist's Daughter, by Jeannine Hall Gailey, about the Manhattan project and its scary effects on the environment and human health. In a Random Coinciday kind of way, I can see how the Moore and the Mantel books connect, both about childhood friendships.

Speaking of nuclear fallout, who will run the frog hospital?! And speaking of being an aspiring short story writer, I had a bit of good news about my fiction--I'm a semi-finalist in the Press 53 Award for Short Fiction competition, a nice surprise. As "a disillusioned, middle-aged woman" with a Lorrie Moorian sense of humor, I've learned to celebrate my nominations and my semi-finalist status instead of waiting around to win. Don't worry, schweetie, I'm fine!


Carol Berg said...

Congratulations! That's fantastic. Good Luck!

Kathleen said...

Thank you!

SarahJane said...

Congrats old girl! And good luck. :)

Kathleen said...

Thanks, not so old girl!

seana graham said...

Thanks for the mention. I will have to check out The Robot Scientist's Daughter as well.

Congratulations and best of luck with the story contest. I agree on celebrating it having made it into the semi-finals. Whatever else happens, that means that some people really like it!

Kathleen said...

Thanks, Seana!

Craig H said...


I love Frog Hospital, too. I think it is a near perfect short novel. One of a very few that I have read.