University of San Francisco creative writing Professor
Catherine Brady has won the 2010 Northern California Book Award for fiction.
That’s a long way to come from the early 1990s, seven years
before her first book was published, when she decided to give up writing.
She stuck with it. And the day she learned she’d finally
found a publisher, she excitedly called her mom, an Irish Catholic immigrant,
who thanked God and told her, “I’ve been praying to St. Jude for you,” Brady
recalled. St. Jude being the patron saint of lost causes.
“Thanks mom,” Brady thought wryly. But, in truth, Brady
credits her mother for encouraging her through the rough years.
In its award citation for her book The Mechanics of Falling and Other Stories, the Northern California Book Award
selection committee lauded Brady for the nuances “inherent in her sense of
language, in her use of dialogue and imagery, and in the lightness of touch
with which she infuses the most serious of subjects with deft humor.”
The idea for The Mechanics of Falling came to her after reading a flyer with an
inadvertent misspelling – “Looking for a female tenet.”
“My eye is drawn to slip-ups and mistakes,” Brady said.
“Sometimes they’re what it takes to pierce the barrier between our declared
wants and our true desires, between our ordinary dilemmas and our cosmic ones.”
Setting the stories primarily in San Francisco, Brady
explores the idea of a female tenet through the questions, complications, and
qualifications of her characters’ lives.
The stories in The Mechanics of Falling are about what happens when the seemingly
permanent fixtures in people’s lives give way. The characters – a college
student waitressing in a remote resort in the Sierras, a devout Christian man
who works in a shelter for the homeless, a faded Berkeley radical, a privileged
young woman who can’t figure out whom to blame for her inexplicable discontent
– all struggle to find a faith that can cushion their fall, Brady said.
In each case, the characters must decide what to
risk for the sake of transformation – or for the right to refuse it.