Whole Worlds Could Pass Away: Collected Stories
Whole Worlds Could Pass Away: Collected Stories
Rickey Gard Diamond
Release Date: July 7, 2017
Whole Worlds Could Pass Away: Collected Stories -- Rickey Gard Diamond’s stories are at once familiar and startling, grounded in remarkable everyday experiences as well as in the raw and dreadful. Published in a range of journals and magazines like The Sewanee Review, Plainswoman, Other Voices, The Louisville Review, and Trivia, Diamond’s characters and settings resonate with a language and voice uniquely her own. These eleven stories, from Bears to Worms, reveal a common thread in our collective and inner lives.
Praise for the Collection
"Here is a bold and restless collection of short stories bursting with originality and energy. Rickey Gard Diamond's stories are a powerful attack on the conventional and a celebration of individual freedom. What we do with our lives is our business, and the strictures of society--particularly in relation to gender issues and traditional institutions--are to be flaunted. The creation of a unique lifestyle is to be applauded as it requires honesty, courage, perseverance, and self-respect."
-- Sena Jeter Naslund, Ahab's Wife and The Fountain of St. James Cour, or Portrait of the Artist as an Old Woman
"Rickey Gard Diamond’s Whole Worlds Could Pass Away is an eclectic collection of short stories, each a convincing world in its own right and populated by characters who instantly engage and fascinate the reader. Whether two sisters who are “home” to scatter their mother’s ashes, or an aging pharmacist who may have made a fatal mistake, it’s easy to plunge into their individual universes and be caught up in the lives Diamond has made for them. She shows us the complexities of fallible people and our circumstances, in a strong writing style that carries us along with delightful phrases like 'a reasonable gargoyle.'"
--Mary Dingee Fillmore, An Address in Amsterdam
"A richly evocative, atmospheric collection, related as beads on a string relate—separate yet similar while creating a whole and fascinating artifact."
--Delia Bell Robinson, A Shirtwaist Story
"There is so much competition for our attention in the world today. Hence first lines become of crucial importance. In her short story collection Whole Worlds Could Pass Away, Rickey Gard Diamond captures readers with openings like “She’d not remembered the bear for decades, until a day when it was useful,” and “I swear I would have heard the alarm, except I was standing on the beach with Aunt Caroline who’s been dead for two years.” Fiction can be escape, escape much needed in fraught times such as ours. These stories do the job. They introduce us to complicated characters who can make our own troubles seem quaint and controllable. They take us to places far from our comfort zones -- both geographic and conceptual. We leave Rickey Gard Diamond’s world better prepared to accommodate our own. Or as Jonathan, in her story “Worms,” advises “You can go anywhere, if you’ve got yourself a good bike.”
--Peter Laufer, George Polk Award winner, David Wolper Best Documentary Prize winner, author, journalist and filmmaker
"As she sells off all but the largest pieces of furniture in the house, Virginia, the divorcing protagonist of the short story "In a House by the River," rediscovers a sense of self. In "They Shout Praises," a man gains insight into his troubled relationship while photographing a wedding. "Black Bears" evocatively charts a woman's life and her losses from childhood to middle age — in nine pages. In these and other stories, journalist and award-winning author Rickey Gard Diamond deftly captivates the reader with subtle plot progressions and complex characters who grow in poignant and unexpected ways. Reading them is like stepping into a theater smack-dab in the middle of a great play. Diamond has honed her craft for decades through short stories published in literary and feminist journals, through her novel Second Sight, and as founding editor of Vermont Woman. In this collection of previously published work, her skill and wisdom shine."
--Elizabeth M. Seyler, Assistant Editor, Seven Days, Vermont's Independent Voice
Clarion 5 Star Review
“Spare yet deep, these stories engage from their first sentences, striking common and affecting chords.
“Delivered with efficient mastery, Rickey Gard Diamond’s collection of short stories, Whole Worlds Could Pass Away, offers up thoughtful and evocative stories that summon themes of lost love, disappointment, sexism, and familial rifts. Brief and thorough, these engaging stories explore the human condition and resonate with meaning.
“The eleven short stories in the collection are deep and are effectively sketched with details that bring their people and places to life. A few reach into the past, like “Black Bears,” which ponders loss and familial splits brought about by the Vietnam War. Characters share deceptively simple yet profound memories. “Goldfish” is another tale pondering broken family ties. It is narrated by Ann, who cannot grasp why her traditional mother lacked interest in her hopes and failed to encourage her yet supports the aspirations of an unconventional granddaughter, Alex.
“Timely and haunting, “Walls” is also driven by a ruminative character. She is unnamed, and haunted by a past sexual assault. She questions everything: her upbringing, workplace behavior, society’s standards, and whether she may have instigated the rape.
“One of the longest stories, “The Passing of McClusky,” is a melancholy look at lost love, aging, and modernization. The setting is Doc Garren’s drugstore, with its built-in soda fountain—a holdout among chain pharmacies. The pharmacy is a keeper of memories, shown to be the setting for pivotal moments in Garren’s life, including his first sighting of his future wife, whom he later lost to childbirth:
Take your eyes off what you should be looking at just for one moment and whole worlds were likely to pass away.
“His memories prove to be as vibrant as the jars of colored water that sit along the windowsills. The story glows with poignancy and somber reflection.
“Though concise, these stories show an astounding ability to connect people through common experiences and emotions. They leave a distinct impression, whether of sorrow or nostalgia. Spare yet deep, these stories engage from their first sentences, striking common and affecting chords.
“ Many characters are recognizable. Some are wizened and humorous in their thoughts and actions, like Mossy McWhirter in “The Visitation,” which ends with an intriguing take on death. Details are tasteful and precise, scenes are picturesque, and dialogue is relatable. Stories are paced smoothly and effectually, and lead toward distinct conclusions that are reflective and wistful.
“Enlightening and satisfying, Whole Worlds Could Pass Away deftly handles common themes and renders ordinary experiences resonant for its audience, even long after the stories end.”
Felicia Topp Clarion 5 Star Review
More Praise from Readers
"This collection of short stories is astonishingly good. Rickey Gard Diamond is a Hemingway-esque writer whose observations of mundane American life, from the 1950s to the present, are brilliant and subtle, couched in a simple, midwestern voice. (I'm reminded also of Tillie Olsen's great "Tell Me a Riddle" as well.) There is a deep feminist slant here, but it's not overt. Each story is like a plain stone that one might discover along a forest walk; the author turns the stone over, puts it under a microscope, and reveals all kinds of life-forms. Her novel Second Sight is also brilliant. This is the kind of book you can return to again and again for a new perspective each time."
"I have had the good fortune to teach undergraduate coursework with Rickey and to see her 'in action.' However, the opportunity to read her work has been an even more articulate and rewarding experience."
"I love to read about black bears. However, Rickey uses them as symbols, forces of life and piercing, integrated parts of our lives.
One of the keys of great literature and literary writing is the cadence that develops the pace of writing. Short story writing is so precarious- Dorothy Parker, Lydia Davis, Flannery O'Connor- they showed us how much it is like fishing, the line needs to be loose and tight, and, Rickey has developed the same arc of the wrist, the skill to reel us in without us knowing it until the last minute, the last line of the story, and then it's too late. We have been hooked, baited and captured. But, how exhilarating to be flipped up into the air, gasping for air as we realize another short story writer has taken the air out of our lungs with marvelous skill and heart.
I am delighted to say that I have worked with Rickey. But, I am even more proud to say that I have read her work.
Please read this wonderful book of short stories! You will enjoy it immensely!"
"I’m only about halfway through Rickey Gard Diamond’s collection of short stories, “Whole Worlds Could Pass Away”, but I am looking forward to reading the rest of these stories. Within the first few paragraphs, she creates characters that you want to know more about. What are they going to do next? Why? These stories are dominated by women -- wives, mothers and daughters and granddaughters, strippers, peculiar cat ladies, Avon ladies. Young women, middle-aged women, old women. And there are the men in their lives, military husbands, men who poison cats, men who go to see strippers, men who leave. One of the stories I fell in love with the most, “GoldFish” follows three women Margaret, a mother and grandmother, Ann, Margaret’s daughter and mother of Alex, and Alex., daughter of Ann and granddaughter of Margaret. Each of these women is a conception of her generation, Ann being a Baby Boomer, Margaret a self-sacrificing mother, and Alex, an independent career-minded young woman. You swim in the complexity of their relationships – mothers and daughters, grandmother and granddaughter. Gard Diamond’s endings evolve into dreamlike scenes that are natural expansions of the symbols and the characters. Ann dreams of Alex as a fish in her belly. “They will show you their supple spines, their brass – they glint, breathing water alive.” In “The Visitation”, Mossy an old woman with dozens of cats, begins to see one of them Whizzo turn into a spirit and levitate off an apple branch. “There seemed to be flashes of light in his fur, like the heat lightening in the clouds overhead. And something in his eyes was seeking her out, and connected finally, inviting her to shake hands with herself and begin a long, long acquaintance.”
"Her endings have you wishing for more --- more of the characters, more of the stories, more of the dream, more of the question and more of the answers."
"This is a short story collection that sneaks up on you. Quietly. Through both hauntingly beautiful and ruthlessly honest moments. This book's sometimes staggering power isn't wrought from imposing itself on the reader but, instead, is achieved by simply shining an unflinching light onto this expertly chosen variety of scenes. This is not a book to be cherry-picked - part of its power is its well chosen emotional pacing, but a few stories stood out for me. "What Happened at Wanda's Place" is a devastating examination of the dark, ugly underbelly of the sex trade (not an easy read). "Walls" shines a light on the cultural collaboration enveloping a sexual assault. This is not a safe book - it's edgy, boldly feminist and gorgeously written. And I'm still thinking about it."
"A short story author must be a skilled artist to quickly paint a picture and engage the reader. Rickey Gard Diamond has done this brilliantly. I was immediately enmeshed in the nostalgia and storytelling. I wanted more with every story and ultimately got it with the closing stories. You will identify with these characters and run through a range of emotions like familiar memories."
Rickey Gard Diamond’s fiction ranges from her short stories to her novel, Second Sight, published by Calyx and re-issued by Harper Collins which Wally Lamb called "heartbreaking and life-affirming, serious and startling, a wonderful first work." Diamond edited the statewide Vermont newspaper on poverty issues, The People’s Voice, and was founding editor of Vermont WomanNewspaper and, recently, received an investigative reporting award for a series about economics from the National Newspaper Association. In 2015, she received a Hedgebrook Writer-in-Residence Award. She earned her MFA in Writing from Vermont College where she was Professor of Liberal Arts for almost 20 years. Her forthcoming book, ScrewNomics: How Our Economy Works Against Women and What We Can Do to Make Real and Lasting Change (She Writes Press, April 2018), with cartoonist Peaco Todd, explores and overthrows "the economic theory that women should work for less, or better, for free.” She lives and writes in Montpelier Vermont with her husband and Azula, a Maine Coon cat.