I first encountered Anthony Doerr when he came to UW-Madison to promote and speak about his book All The Light We Cannot See. In that talk Doerr discussed having a lot of interests and delving into them, seeing the the big picture and then diving in to look at all the exquisite details of nature, science, history, anything of interest to him. This comes across very clearly in his collection of short stories, The Shell Collector.
There is a quiet sort of passion that comes across in all of these stories. It’s not forced and it doesn’t stem from flowery or even passionate language. It’s the passion of confidence in knowledge acquired about the natural world. There is something very attractive about a story that is built around a world that is tangible for the reader because its details ring so true. This is particularly important in short stories. There is no time prove over and over again that the world is true and real so the author needs to nail the details off the bat and get on with the story. Doerr is very successful on this front, in a very short amount of time and woven through these stories is detail after detail that is beautiful put and rings very true.
There is something to be said for a writerly appreciation of a story versus a readerly appreciation of a story. These stories did not sweep me up and dance with me till three in the morning. I can recognize that the writing is excellent and I never wanted to put them down but they are quiet. Sometimes the detail shouted and the emotions and story that readers really eat up got lost in it.
This is an excellent book to keep around and read a story or two whenever you have the time and/or inclination. The stories are quiet but they have a tendency to stick with you because of the excellent detail and imagery used within them. The emotions sneak up on you with a little bit of reflection. It’s also worth noting that Anthony Doerr spent some time studying at UW-Madison so he’s clearly an author with excellent taste.
Go Badgers! 🙂
Keep reading. Keep learning. Keep listening. Keep creating.