Friday, March 20, 2009


Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to hear Elizabeth McCracken read at Temple University.  Usually, I don't go to see a writer read unless I have read her work or am at least familiar with it.  In this case, I hadn't read or heard much about McCracken's work.  My friend Lynn Rosen, the best read woman in Philadelphia, said I would love her. 

McCracken read a short story told from multiple points of view.  A rather ambitious work to read aloud.  At times, I must admit I was confused about who was speaking and about what exactly was going on, but I was still sucked in.  McCracken made me smile, made me frightened, made me think.  I was completely emotionally enthralled by the end.  

Before McCracken read I teased her that I would buy one of her books if she impressed me.  After the reading, I went to the nearest bookstore and bought The Giant's House.  It's about a boy named  James who is 8'2" at 17.  His growing is out of control, his growing is killing him.  And yet, it is Peggy Cort the librarian narrator who is the freak.  A woman who has trouble making real human connection until she falls in love with James.  Peggy's inner life is so compelling, her thoughts on love, on loneliness, on life are funny and sad.  Here's a taste of Peggy:

. . . I was outside on my park bench, eating some tragic sandwich I'd assembled from odds and ends out of my fridge--sliced apple, some cheese, pickle relish.  Single people eat sadly--they cobble together things left from shopping trips based on dreams of all the meals they'd fix for themselves, all the ways they'd treat themselves to something grand; those dreams, for me, died by the next day and, despite my best hopes, I wanted only canned hash and apples.  Dogged by practicality, I had to use everything I'd bought anyhow.

I ran into McCracken in the lobby as she was rushing to catch a flight home to her children  - a two-month-old and a twenty-month-old.  I must say, as a mother of two, I vividly remember those days and was even more impressed with how smart and witty (and coherent!) she was during the reading and the question and answer session.  

I look forward to reading more of her work.  Check out Elizabeth McCracken's website.