(Welcome to my lackadaisically updated blog column Two Page Minimum, wherein I take a new book out for drinks, and give it a few minutes to grab my attention. Two Page Minimum is my judgment on that speed-dating experience.)
Who's your date today?
Joe Meno's short story collection Demons in the Spring.
Where did you go?
I hit the Aalto's solid happy hour for a $3 pint of Terminal Gravity IPA, and an oozy and delicious goat cheese and tomato panini, $4.
What's your first impression?
Demons is a beautiful book with an embossed cloth cover and a prominent back blurb from Dave Eggers—he calls it a "rich, unforgettable stew of a book." (It should also be noted here that some of the author's proceeds go to benefit 826CHICAGO, an offshoot of the tutoring nonprofit Eggers founded.) Each story is illustrated by a different artist, including Charles Burns, Todd Baxter, and Paul Hornschemeir. It's a very, very attractive package.
Is there a representative quote?
At work, you make paper airplanes. For these airplanes you have a number of names: the two-spinner, which flies in two complete circles before its inevitable crash; the submarine plane, which goes underwater; the perpetual drifter, a plane you have devised which, through aerial locomotion, can stay airborne forever. We make two of each of these and send them out the office window, watching them take to the air, wing in wing, disappearing over the city. When they crash, giving in to the luxury of gravity, I think of kissing you and know that it is exactly how it would feel.
Will you two end up in bed together?
Nah. I'm about full up on stories that are fraught with the tremulous strangeness of the everyday. (Is this all Aimee Bender's fault?) Meno's writing struck me as too polished, too proficient, all carefully mastered style and little substance. The illustrations are the best part of this book: For a story about a little girl who insists on dressing as a ghost every day, Charles Burnes contributed a fantastically evocative drawing of an ominously draped sheet, while Geoff McFetridge's drawing for the interoffice love story excerpted above consists of simple, effective line drawings of a man and woman drawing one another. This book is absolutely gorgeous to look at, but the actual writing is far less compelling.