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And Yet They Were Happy Helen Phillips
This book—Phillips's first—is a marvel. It's a collection of two-page stories, grouped into sections with headers like "The Apocalypses" and "The Helens." It roams wildly and beautifully while staying within the constraints of its chosen form. It also happens to include one of the most beautiful and brutal descriptions of summer that I have ever read. The following passage is from the story "We? #2": "In the park everyone is dehydrated. Like shipwrecked sailors who've finally reached land, everyone sprawls pathetically on the grass. Babies born in winter learn, for the first time, of sun. Skinny girls and fat girls pull up their skirts, revealing everything. Grass sticks to their thighs. The sky blue shirts of the college boys are soaked with Frisbee sweat. A teenager sits under a tree, struggles with his guitar, bestows upon everyone mismatched chords, a king throwing coins to the poor. Everyone is sunburned. A young man and a young woman lie side by side on the grass. Her heart swells, swells, shrinks, shrinks, swells, swells, shrinks, shrinks. Unaware of this turmoil, his heart plods patiently. Your joy—it shall be unbounded." See? Beautiful and brutal. In a word, perfect.