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Ramona Ausubel

Ramona Ausubel has been published in The New Yorker, One Story, The Paris Review Daily, The Best American Fantasty and elsewhere and has received special mentions in The Best American Short Stories, The Best American Nonrequired Reading, and was a finalist for the Puschcart Prize.

Blurbs

“Aggressively imaginative.”

– The New York Times

"Ausubel is a master stylist of vibrant, concise prose, and these stories, with love most often at their cores, can be appreciated for that alone."

– Booklist

"These stories reminded me of branches full of cherry blossoms: fresh, delicate, beautiful, expressive, otherworldly. I eagerly read from one story to the next."

– Aimee Bender

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Featured Book

A Guide to Being Born

Labor of Love

11/04/13

The strange cover — a beautiful, precise, mishmash of subjects – is perfect for the stories it protects. They, too, are a mixed bag surrounding the subject of familial relationships of one kind or another, whether between mothers and children-to-be; fathers and their desire to carry something around, womblike, in a set of drawers; or lovers and their possible futures as seen embodied around them in the elderly couples inhabiting their neighborhood.

From the very start, this book informs the reader that these stories contain elements of the abnormal; consider the opening of “Safe Passage,” the first story in the collection:

The grandmothers — dozens of them — find themselves at sea. They do not know how they got there. It seems to be afternoon, the glare from the sun keeps them squinting. They wander carefully, canes and orthotics… Are we dead? They ask one another. Are we dying?

Call it what you will: the fantastical, the imagined, magical-realism. The truth is, I’m not sure you can categorize it as any of these. The unreal elements, often dreamlike but never cast under the shadow of doubt or suspicious, are part and parcel of the real world, of life, birth and death in these stories. If you have trouble believing something, my advice is to sit back with your favorite soothing beverage; let go, let the story take over, let yourself sink into the deceptively simple language Ausubel uses to tell her stories:

A tiny white spine began to knit itself inside Hazel. Now it was just a matter of growing. [. . .] She dreamed that night, and for all the nights of summer, of a ball of light in her belly. A glowing knot of illuminated strands, heat breaking away from it, warming her from the inside out. Then it grew fur, but still shone. Pretty soon she saw its claws and its teeth, long and yellow. It had no eyes, just blindly scratched around sniffing her warm cave. She did not know if this creature was here to be her friend or to punish her.

Each story is crafted independently, but they fit together in this volume under the headings that Ausubel has given to the four sections, an optimistic backwards version of coming to life: Birth, Gestation, Conception, Love. The writing isn’t pretentious. The metaphors are beautifully simple, sprinkled sparingly enough not to make the careful reader cringe at the literariness:

Laura and I sat on a picnic blanket in the middle of our suburban front yard. Poppy sat there too, only she was in her stroller bed as always. The grass was craning out of the dirt and the birds were going for all our scraps. We lay on our backs like Poppy does, flat down, and looked at the graying blue of the sky. It came at us. Storming us with its color, with its light.

This is a first-rate book of short stories, and in a time when such books are difficult to publish, I have no doubt as to why this one succeeded in the task. It is a labor of love, and I’m glad it has come to light, a quiet baby of a book, crying when it is hungry but not screaming, sleeping through the night so early that you may wake up seeping milk, wondering if something is wrong with it. It will stay with you after you finish the stories, and you will worry about it a little bit, wondering if you understood it as you should have, cared as much as you could. Like an anxious parent, you may never know, but you can always go back and care some more.

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