Fluid stories by Lisa Teasley (A Review)
Fluid stories by Lisa Teasley is an observational dive into the lives of people. Never intersecting directly but in many ways exposing a similar through line, this short story collection is an intriguing exploration into human behavior.
The stories were not always linear, in that they did not always follow the flow of having a definite beginning, middle and neatly tied-up end, which in many ways may frustrate the reader, but focusing on the title throughout reading the book helps to understand the author's mission. The idea of being fluid is the concept of not being fixed, but instead changing. You are not either/or, but most times this/and.
The book in itself was a challenge to be adaptable. Just when you might get attached to a character, their story ends and then we are introduced to someone new. As the reader, you may have to remind yourself that you, indeed, need to be more open to the flow of the stories as opposed to mourning the conclusion.
In doing so, the reader is privileged to actually be that fly on the wall that we often wish we could be, as we spy on others' lives to see how we measure up. In the world we may find ourselves analyzing the following in our minds: Are these people who seem otherwise normal, just as dysfunctional, traumatized and confused as I am? Are they too battling depression, or anxiety, while trying, with much difficulty to define themselves and manage the expectations of socialization? The answer to these inquiries is not literally answered in this book, but in many ways confirmed. We are all navigating the interesting, intersectionality of our lives.
There is often a narrative voice occuring above the story, like an observer, which almost acts as the inside voice of the reader—Contemplating the sheer lunacy of certain events. With different speakers' text being italicized (which was a helpful, unique touch), we could track very well the actual dialogue versus self-talk. But the creativity of Teasley did not stop there. Her ability to paint a setting in the mind of the reader was the most enjoyable part of her writing.
Addressing all five major senses, one could not only see the very spaces that these characters floated into and out of, but share in the smells, sounds, tastes and tactile experiences as if they were their very own. The dandelion-hued office where an artist silently debates the true meaning of his work, the oft-described scent of lavender (and whatever odor conflicted with its ability to calm), two sweaty just-met-dancers shrugging off discomfort and embracing like they've known each other all their lives, and a man struggling through chewing his now-barely palatable breakfast as he struggles with his father's dying wish. The reader is drawn in as the characters traverse time, space, and a bevy of emotions while navigating the unpredictable, super-natural, transcontinental and other-wordly adventures of the stories in this collection.
Similarly to the lives of any reader, these stories veer away from light-weight and tackle the heavy subjects that we eventually will be faced with at some inevitable point. However the gift is the subtle notions of internal conflict that are unveiled. One story in particular I Met Someone, at first read seems like a cheeky dating misadventure set in Los Angeles. But as we accompany Irma on her series of dates with a mysterious man who insists on taking her out to eat, while he avoids eating or drinking anything outside of his home, the reader may actually become more curious about her decision to continuously accept his advances, although she maintains that she isn’t as into him as he is into her. She spends most of her time with him inside her head, pointing out all of the wrong in this potential suitor, enduring movies that she does not particularly enjoy, while being embarrassed and openly judged, however she cannot successfully and directly assert herself. Even admitting that she struggles with saying no to people’s faces.
There are the references to distinct Los Angeles culture-markers that add a dash of humor while passively adding necessary context into character development. The references to fitness and healthy eating choices, while sitting in front of an Erewhon grocery store with people who met at a church which functions more like a community than a typical house of worship, has all of the elements of stereotypical Angeleno life. But the hints at racial identity and Irma's struggle with it, were enlightening. Because it actually explained a lot more about her than the setting truly did. Embracing the conflict of this character was again a test of our willingness to flow along with the narrative.
These sixteen complete stories, while brief, explore a lot of relatable situations. And does so without the limits of racial or gender identity, geography, socio-economic status or belief systems. A reader is required to be flexible in order to make it through the book but also to get the point. We as people, regardless of how we identify, are neither fixed or absolutely sure. Life will require that we manage choices, complex decisions, and the conflicts that arise. But the glimmer of hope remains in our willingness and ability to be fluid.
©Evangeline Lawson September 25, 2023