Monday, May 2, 2011

The story of civilization is the story of what happened on the banks

For a while I've tried to articulate the kind of fiction some of my favorite writers write. Lately I've been calling it: quiet fiction. Face - who I'm now calling Nico - would call it a story without a plot. I would call it life. Life is only sometimes plot driven. The rest of the time it is all about character development.

Cathie Pelletier not only does some mean character development, but - through Will Durant - articulates this sub-genre of fiction: History may only record the river of civilization, but there is a whole other world taking place right next to it, on the banks. And the banks are funny and heartwarming. Richard Russo says she walks on the edge of "hilarity and heartbreak." I agree.

Funeral Makers, Once Upon a Time on the Banks and The Weight of Winter make up Pelletier's trilogy concerning the inhabitants of Mattagash, Maine. The families are so real, and hilarious, that I keep Googling Mattagash, like maybe this time the internet will confirm it as a real place.

I finished Once Upon a Time on the Banks and immediately wanted more. More weddings in school gyms where everyone is wondering if the bride is pregnant. More pesky neighbors who steal the rims off cars and moon people who are in a funeral procession. More husbands cheating on their wives with women who look like Marilyn Monroe and then realize their mistake. More wives finding out who they are. More ghosts of relatives past. More eavesdropping on the phone. More gossip. More family. More love. More life.

"I'm all heart and nerve and memory."
Cathie Pelletier


  1. I like your term "quiet fiction."

  2. I think I will still keep using it since it is nicely succinct.