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Hearing that Melissa Banks has died – so sad
“The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing….was excellent, but The Wonder Spot is a million times better, more fully realised, more confident and more true.”https://t.co/PQh3DuQKab
— Irish Literary Times (@IrishLitTimes) August 3, 2022
Despite the fact that I frequently discuss The Wonder Spot by Melissa Bank, I have a really difficult time articulating my thoughts on the novel. I am utterly obsessed with it, and I am also completely obsessed with the fact that very few people are aware of its existence.
It’s not just that it’s my favorite book; I have a lot of books that I love, like Heartburn by Nora Ephron, Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding, and Some Hope by Edward St. Aubyn. But this one is special. The Wonder Spot is the book that fulfills all of my needs. The tenor is excellent, the stories are beautiful, the characters are perfect, and every word, although appearing to have been picked in such a casual manner, is flawless. Bank is just as skilled a stylist as St. Aubyn, who also has an uncanny ability to pick the ideal word in every situation. She is a humorous female writer who writes about being single in New York City, but he is a serious male writer who writes about child abuse and addiction. Because he is a serious male writer who writes about child abuse and addiction, he is acclaimed, whereas she tends to be ridiculed. And that is how that tired argument is resolved.
That is also the reason why so few people are familiar with The Wonder Spot; the covers that her publishers chose for it are, in my opinion – and I say this without hyperbole – among the worst ever created for a book. On the cover of my edition is a cartoonish woman making a funny face while looking up at the night sky. Other covers I’ve seen include one that is reminiscent of the Twilight series and depicts a woman whose hair is covered by her fringe; another depicts a depressed woman strolling down a depressed street; and the most puzzling one features two elephants. Although none of these pertain in any way to the book itself, they do shed light on why it was not successful in the marketplace. Do we have the strength to discuss, once more, how publishers consistently demean brilliant and humorous literature written by women with disastrously insulting book covers, while boosting relatively middlebrow novels written by men with lofty designs reminiscent of “State of the Nation”? No, we do not. However, we are always able to muster the strength to be upset about it.
The Wonder Spot is the kind of book that, if I had been a novelist, I would have hoped to have written myself. Since of this, I find it pretty difficult to talk about it because I adore it so much, and I am aware that any attempt to summarize it will never do it justice. This is why I find it quite difficult to talk about it. It’s a pretty amusing collection of short stories that span 20 years in the life of a lady named Sophie, with each one concentrating on a different relationship in her life at that time. The book is called Sophie and the Short Stories. However, this condensed version leaves out a lot of important details, not the least of which is how Bank takes us on such a wonderful journey through the lives of everyone around Sophie, including her siblings, her mother, her friends, and her coworkers. In addition, the way I’ve been describing the book makes it sound like it follows a formula, yet Bank is really astute when it comes to structuring things. Each of the stories is allegedly about a romance; yet, we don’t learn until almost the very end, in a single heartbreaking paragraph, that Bank has kept the narrative of Sophie’s most significant connection until almost the very end of the collection. As an example of how to condense a story without sacrificing emotion, it is a beautiful demonstration of literary compression.
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