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Friday, June 20, 2008

Lunch Date: Farewell Navigator

posted by on June 20 at 11:00 AM


(A few times a week, I take a new book with me to lunch and give it a half an hour or so to grab my attention. Lunch Date is my judgment on that speed-dating experience.)

Who’s your date today? Farewell Navigator, a collection of short stories by Leni Zumas

Where’d you go? Cafe Stellina .

What’d you eat?
A potato, provolone, and bacon tart ($10).

How was the food? Stellina is a controversial restaurant around these parts, but I really dug on that tart. There wasn’t too much bacon, the crust was light and flaky, the potatoes made the whole thing just heavy enough to be satisfying, and the tart was surrounded by greens coated in Stellina’s delicious rosemary dressing. It was a good lunch.

What does your date say about itself?
Ten short stories by a fairly new author “who plays drums in the post-punk band S-S-S-Spectres.” “Attention unrequited lovers, sisters of suicidal brothers, children of the legally blind: you are not alone. Leni Zumas understands your quiet agony and describes it with such a wry, unflinching familiarity that even the gory details ring true. If darkness has ever been your friend, your story is in here.”—Miranda July

Is there a representative quote?
“The word is moxa, I say, and here are your choices: a medieval fortified keep; a small instrument used to brush hair off the South American goose; a preternaturally skilled hoagie maker; or a flammable material obtained from the leaves of Japanese wormwood.
Hoagie is a disturbing word, my mother says.
You have ten seconds.
Well, she says, I don’t know what hoagie means so how can I choose?”

Will you two end up in bed together? Yes. In one lunch, I got through two stories, and the first one was way too vague for my tastes, the second one—the one quoted above—was a bit too eccentric for me, and the third seems just right. So we’ll see where it goes from here. There’s enough in the language to remind me of Aimee Bender, who’s one of my all-time favorites, to keep me happy even in the vaguest of the stories. I don’t get the sense that Zumas is a writer biding time until her novel gets edited; she seems to really like short stories, and that makes all the difference.

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