cover image Study in Perfect

Study in Perfect

Sarah Gorham. Univ. of Georgia, $24.95 (224p) ISBN 978-0-8203-4712-7

This superb collection from Gorham, author of poetry collections (Bad Daughter) and Sarabande Books’s editor-in-chief, exemplifies the best in creative nonfiction. Meditations on perfection and imperfection, Gorham’s essays traverse topics that are at once ordinary and elemental: the house she and her husband once thought was “perfect”; being a mother and being a daughter; alcoholism; middle age. Those longer pieces are interleaved with brief meditations, less than two pages long, on such topics as the perfect word, the perfect flower, the perfect conversation, and perfect sleep (“I remember only one such sleep”). The prose is simple—the very opposite of acrobatic—yet also surprising, fresh, and rhythmic: in that perfect four-story house, Gorham’s family “lived [their] lives vertically.” The alcoholic depicted in “The Drinker’s Guide to The Cat in the Hat” “liked his ice chipped... and a French jelly glass set to the right of his special chair.” Gorham’s play with pronouns and antecedents is beguiling, and her choice of quotations, from sources as diverse as Grace Slick and Oscar Wilde, are apt. No collection is perfect—the experimentalism of “The Shape of Fear” feels a bit strained—but this book comes gloriously close. (Sept.)