Besides our esteemed leader, Luis Urrea, the only one of our Tin House group with the creds to lay a published work in front of us and hand out autographs was Cezarija Arbatis, whose Nice Girls is a very competent, often moving, compilation of linked stories about girls and women in love.
My two favorites of the group are the first, ”Homework,” about a girl who wants three things in life–to be a saint, to be part of a normal American family, and Jimmy Osowski. Simple yearnings that lead to the kind of Byzantine manipulations only the innocent, malicious adolescent mind can contrive. The other is “Frankie’s Story,” possibly because it’s so the opposite of “Homework.” Frankie is grown, a drinker, on her way out of her marriage, bitter, but not necessarily unhappy. A strange concoc
tion that many of Arbatis’ women seem to make work in their lives. They hook up with unavailable men, live out the romance, go on with regrets, but somehow still whole in themselves.
Don’t ask me how exactly, it’s something Cezarija seems to know how to create that I don’t quite understand.
This is from 2003, this volume, and we in the workshop got a peek at her upcoming literary thriller that takes place in the “Eden” of the north woods. Watch for it. It’s on its way to sure success.