I am not normally one who reads books that contain short stories, but as it turns out, I have read one such book, lately entitled Problems With People: Stories, by David Guterson.
The book contains ten stories that are not connected by one or more characters repeating within the various stories. Krassavitseh is the one story I liked the most. It involved a father and son who tour Holocaust memorials in Germany, the country the father emigrated to America from. It was a poignant look at what once was (in the memories of father’s mind), and what appeared before him during his touring. Architecture, streets, pathways, houses, so much had changed, and the father’s emotions could not fathom all he actually saw before him. His mindset was in the past, what once was.
Memory is often the cement of our past, and when things seem out of context as to settings and scenes in the here and now, it can overwhelm a person. It can also cause one to have to reflect on history, bringing up the past in painful snippets.
Another story, entitled Tenant reflects on a landlord’s curiosity regarding a woman who is renting from him. He tries to gain her attention through emails. He finally meets her. Their conversation is awkward, somewhat stifled. This is due to the landlord’s lack of social skills, and his expectations of what their meeting would hold.
Most of the stories are ones of loss, awkwardness, loneliness, and humans at the very basics of the emotions and mentalities. The interactions, or lack of, are well defined through strong word imagery and prose. The cognizance of the characters is depicted fully. Even though they exhibited depression, anxiety and even mental incapacity, the stories hit at the core of life and lives lived in realistic fashion.
The characters are often emotionally inept in both social and family situations. Yet, they are presented to the reader with clarity that illuminates their lack of confidence in certain situations. Some of the stories end abruptly, but in real life, situations often end that way, and Guterson projects that quite brilliantly.
Problems With People: Stories, by David Guterson exhibits just that, people’s problems, but through a flair of masterful writing.