Review of “Glass Animals” by Stephen V. Ramey

Glass AnimalsGlass Animals by Stephen V. Ramey

In the preface, Steve Ramey mentions that several of the stories collected in Glass Animals started at Show Me Your Lits. This reminds me how lucky we are at SMYL to read raw, fresh fiction every single week from a slew of gifted writers, none moreso than Steve. (It also reminds me how much we owe to Errid Farland and the others who started the site, and to Errid again for being the one constant presence and guide for the first three-plus years of its existence.)

So, having read many of these stories when the ink was wet, reading this book is an insight into the revision process at work. Or maybe I should say (using a Conversations-with-God-like hyphenism), re-vision. It strikes me that more has gone on than a coat of varnish, a patch here or there. No once-over edit to fix grammar or untangle tense. While I may not be able to tell exactly how much has changed in any particular story, each one resonates deeper, clearer than I recall the original. It is as if the author has played each piece like a guitar maker, listened to the sound, then returned to the workbench with it, to shave and reshape the sound board until the tone produced matches the sound he hears in his head.

Take for example, “Cee Cee”. I remember thinking when I read this at Show Me Your Lits that it was humorous story about a woman obsessed with the letter C. It was sweet and somewhat poignant, intimidatingly well-written (as Steve’s first writing almost always seems to be). But now there is a depth that I didn’t note the first time. Cee Cee is a convenience store operator whose light-hearted humor masks a pervading sadness. She’s had troubles and she’s wounded, but a random encounter with a customer restores a glimmer — perhaps not of hope, but of the hope of hope. Steve knows better than to offer a quick fix. The pair engages in a brief flirtation, but Frank is married. What changes in Cee Cee’s life is not that someone found her attractive enough to talk to, but that he saw worth in what had been discarded, a light that is more than a flash of glitter.

Now, I don’t know if Frank was present in version one. But I am sure that the purpose, the direction of this story has been righted and trued through the process of re-vision, and through the medium of the characters.

This is the constant in the stories here. Steve cares for his characters enough to listen to them, and to speak truth on their behalf.

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1 thought on Review of “Glass Animals” by Stephen V. Ramey

  1. Well said, Mark. I have not only enjoyed Steve’s wet-behind-the-ear stories, I have benefited from them. Seeing them in GLASS ANIMALS in full fruition is a joy.

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