‘No Diving Allowed’, a melancholy reflection on life

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Many lovers of literature hold that poetry is the highest form. Poetry is certainly the most economical and condensed literary genre. The poet creates sounds and images from words only, and in a few lines evokes memories, emotions and ideas.

Authors of short fiction films have a similar task. Where a novelist has hundreds of pages to convince the reader to connect with the characters and events of his work, the short story writer has only a few pages.

In Louise Marburg’s “No Diving Allowed,” due out October 6, the author presents 14 stories of people struggling with disappointment, divorce, death and grief. Marburg’s clean and uncluttered style allows her to engage the reader with complex, human, and likable characters in just 10 pages each.

As the title suggests, each story includes a pool as a central or accessory to the story. This common thread throughout the book prompts the reader to think about how the pool works in each story.

In some stories, the pool is clear, sparkling water that cools and cools. In another, the pool is as broken and empty as the lives of the characters.

Several of these short works feature siblings, some who cannot overcome the conflicts and rivalries of childhood, and others who seem to be the only reliable emotional support for one another in a difficult world.

In the title story, Gareth visits his sister, Marion, whose husband cheated on. Gareth and Marion spend the afternoon at the country club pool, where sneering boys ask Gareth, who is obese, to do a cannonball. Marion is furious, but Gareth obliges and causes a sensation. To the delight of the boys, he starts again. Marion and Gareth are kicked out of the club, and Marion will soon be kicked out of the house she loves, but the couple return home and sit “in easy silence”.

While all of the stories are about ordinary people navigating ordinary but sometimes painful lives, Marburg offers the reader some hopeful stories. In “Attractive Nuisance,” the grumpy narrator reluctantly befriends a neighbor boy who is alone and teased by his classmates.

Marburg’s stories are engaging, albeit bittersweet, and give readers a lot to think about. His style is similar to Vonnegut’s and his subjects remind me of “The House on Mango Street”. There is a lot of life in just 145 pages of “No Diving Allowed”.

The conversation

Who are some of your favorite short film writers? If you have a recommendation, question, or want to add to the conversation, please write to me at [email protected]

Bennett is a retired English and journalism teacher. She sits on the board of directors of the Bastrop public library.


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