Gallagher moves freely and intuitively between the present and the past to evoke the life she and editor Ben Gallagher made together, and her life after his death, alone and yet at the same time never without thoughts of him, in a present that is haunted but also comforted by the recollection of their common past.
Its style, as I noted years ago, is 'darting, anecdotal, slightly bemused, possessing a lilting irony that makes for compulsive readability. There is also something funny, sexy or shocking on every page.' ... Every page in this little book is beautifully composed, but Gallagher never leaves us doubting how much she still misses Sonnenberg.
Stories is a memoir built of anecdote and digression, paragraphs skipping like stones from one liquid moment to the next. The method is gestural, not comprehensive, and the book clocks in at a slight 94 pages. Gallagher works in swift, fizzing movements; each chapter is a sketch, not a painting. Mockingbirds build a nest on her terrace in a few brief lines and are dispatched (by a hawk, alas) at paragraph’s end. When they return later in a single tangential sentence, the moment is as light as a stray mark, the smudge that makes the picture whole ... The past is interrupted by the present; a life-drenched reminiscence is undercut by the parenthetical fact of death — but death, too, can be interrupted. In Stories , it is the past that cuts in on the present, waltzing the narrative away into scenes long gone, rooms long left, conversations begun and ended many years ago.
A memoirist writes to her husband to update him on her life since his death ... Some essays, such as one on her attempts to write about an Italian anarchist, are amusing but forgettable. More powerful are passages about her husband, episodes she infuses with heartbreaking delicacy ... A touching tribute to a beloved husband and a shared literary life.