Book: And Yet They Were Happy
Author: Helen Phillips
Published: 2011 (Leapfrog Literature)
I don’t know what to make of this book. It’s a collection of two-page vignettes (which, if you’ve never tried it, is an awesome word to taste while you say it) that are, I think, loosely connected to make a bigger picture of one couple’s life. Only they don’t feel cohesive enough to be about just one couple.
They slide too much between points of view and verb tenses to construct an overarching narrative. My brain likes overarching narratives.
But my brain, like with the Mike Sacks book, couldn’t put Phillips’s down either, for similar reasons. They’re really compelling, and with these, there was an added curiosity of how they were meant to tie together.
I kept reading to find the hidden meaning that I was sure I was missing and would come to suddenly understand (bing!) if only I read enough of her words. Once I got beyond the flood series, which is the first chunk of the book and not the most reader-friendly part to dive into (pun intended), I started feeling connected to these weird flashes of everyday life as imagined past their ordinary boundaries. The fight series especially hit home because she managed to write exactly how it feels without exaggerating into melodrama but keeping every ounce of miserable meaning and expressing them in weird ways that shed new light on it.
And that is my favorite kind of writing.