Amelia Gray's AM/PM
Amelia Gray's AM/PM (Featherproof Books, $12.95) consists of 120 impeccably compact stories of love, discomfort and concert souvenirs. The single-page stories were written, one in the morning and one in the evening, over the course of two months. This timeline, and their brevity, may make it sound like this is a simple little book, but it's not; like the best tiny tales and single lines, Gray's snapshot stories are treacherous and sly, capable of changing the cadence of your thoughts and tinting the way you look at the ordinary things around you.
It takes some time to realize characters are reappearing; each story is so specific that it seems the people within have been captured so firmly in a single scene that they may have no others. It's a relief and a surprise to find them again, a few pages later: Tess, who realizes strange things about meat and fears dying alone. June, who eats her plain dinner with her eyes closed and wakes up covered in seeds. A page of fears; the tension between Martha and Emily; one line from Terrence to June. It's enough to make me wonder what scene, what tiny exchange in my most ordinary day could define me so, if caught in the right words. Amelia Gray probably could find those words. Her visions are direct, devastating, funny and vibrant; it's not everyone who can find such inspiration in a John Mayer concert T-shirt, which becomes as much a character as any human. AM/PM begins with the weight of words and of jobs; it ends with Emily, who's getting paranoid: "Each shadow meant something different and strange, an unfamiliar animal or a line of weapons. These visions were terrifying, but after they went away, she felt a strange kind of peace that those things existed in the world, that her world was powerful enough to conjure them. My world, she thought."