Thursday, March 26, 2015

An Almost Real Look At "Almost Famous Women"

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There is a subtle art to masterfully writing a collection of short stories.  You have to pack background stories, character development, dialogue, a story arc, and some type of ending all in 20,000 words or less.  Some people succeed at it; others do not.  Make that arduous task even more daunting by throwing in some little known historical figures and you have Almost Famous Women.  The 2015 release by American author, Megan Mayhew Bergman, is a collection of thirteen fictional stories about real women who only skirted on the edges of fame.  These women loved, mourned, won, lost, lived, and died; however, almost all strove for recognition that would never fully materialize. Whereas most historical figures in fiction are poorly written or catastrophically caricatured, the women in these stories are masterfully written.  The reader will glimpse the fictitious lives of women from various points of view; from a nurse, a lover, a maid, a neighbor, a person who has contact with the woman, but does not really know her.  Bergman does not make any pretenses about actually knowing what these women thought or felt; instead, she crafts her stories through the public perception of these women, making them even more enigmatic than they already all.

There is a definite edginess to Almost Famous Women.  Bergman does not shy away from the rumors/facts of selfishness, anger, sexual deviance, promiscuity, rebellion, history, and idiosyncrasies of the women.  Bergman has done her research; each story will have the reader reaching for the internet to research these women and the ancillary characters in their lives.  There is a certain refreshing quality about Bergman's writing style; she is stark without being offensive and sensitive without being sappy.  She has the ability to weave a tale that is overabundant with information, emotions, and suspense by utilizing only minimal words.  Bergman's greatest gift, perhaps, is her use of dialogue to propel the stories forward.  The dialogue is a standard amount for a short story; however, the crafting of the dialogue reveals so much in so little.  The settings also help to formulate stories in which immense pain, joy, and self-reflection happen; the settings could almost be consider another character.  So much is revealed in these settings, whether it be an island, a town, or a cluttered, long-ignored room of a dying prima donna.  There is pain, love, life, and death in these stories, so much so that the reader will almost forget that they are reading fictional accounts.
Author Megan Mayhew Bergman

Read it!  You will discover the failed genius of Dolly Wilde, the secrecy of Allegra Byron, the flamboyancy of Joe Carstairs, Butterfly McQueen's rebellion, and who exactly was Tiny Davis.   These were real women.  They were ahead of their times, tortured by their blossoming genius, held down by society's rules.  What Almost Famous Women does is capture the essence of being a woman who does not fit society's mold.  These stories are not preachy or driving home a feminist message.  However, they are feminist in the way that these women are driven to prove themselves in a world that does not understand them, thus they become more and more outrageous until they fail completely.  These are the forgotten women, the women that were either driven out of society for their behaviors or cast aside because they were not what society wanted to see.  Bergman does a breathtakingly beautiful job at reviving these women.  She gives them emotions, feelings, power, and redemption from their mistakes. She forgives them for their sins and makes them people again; during their lives, maybe the expectations were too high.  Maybe, through Bergman, some of these women can receive the acceptance they had craved so badly.  

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