"Grief is a country where it rains and rains but nothing grows. The dead live somewhere else - wearing the clothes we remember them in."
I have to stop and think and appreciate prose like that.
"Los Angeles is a place where dreams balance forever on the edge of coming true. A city on a cliff held fast by its own weight."
I feel like I need to absorb each sentence that van Booy gives me, and it makes me want to write myself. He makes me want to strip whole paragraphs, pages even, right back to the essence that is poignant, significant and provoking.
As I was reading I was reminded of Vienna, thinking that was where I first started this book. I was alone sitting on a bar stool on a busy Friday night, and at one stage I ordered a drink in Spanish. The Austrian waitress answered me in fluent Spanish as though it was natural. When I'm away and alone there is marvel in everything foreign - supermarkets, train stations, a menu. I started Van Booy in Austria, but his observations and simple, succinct language helps me to see the details where I live with the same wonder.
Nicole Hayes shared a writing prompt with Writers Victoria recently: to write your way out of not writing by writing what you're not writing about. I've used this and found it really helpful for getting me back on track with something that's stuck. And now I have Van Booy to help me start when I have no idea what I'm not writing about. I read a few pages and look at photos on my wall or people on the tram or in the cafe and I'm in the creative zone where everything is art and deserves to be captured and I want to be the one who does it.
I've just realised that I spoke Spanish in Innsbruck, not Vienna. And though I have now read the Love Begins in Winter collection, I don't think my status on Goodreads will ever change.
If you need more convincing to get your hands on a copy, the Praise on IndieBound should help.
Oh okay, you can also read a hearty extract of the title story thanks to The Guardian, but you really should get a copy.