Friday, February 04, 2005


This is another book I bought for its cover. That and the fact that L. and I both thought Under the Skin was just incredibly fine and creepy. Unfortunately, the cover's turning out to be what I like best about this book. More below.

First, Alice Munro’s Runaway. I’ve been reading the stories slowly since the middle of January. Munro, of course, writes characters who follow you around once the story’s completed and insist you fret over them. Because of the way most of the stories are written the reader knows long-term how things have turned out and can really only grieve for the glimpses of lives other than the ones the characters ultimately were left with due to decisions reached; impulses unchecked; actions feinted, then renounced. Things could have been so different, but, as a character concludes, “Move an inch this way or that, in such a case, and you’re lost.”

“Runaway” is hands down the best story in the collection. I want to reread the Juliet series of interconnected stories once I finish The Odyssey, although I have a better sense of what was going on with the daughter Penelope now that I’ve reread the Lorrie Moore review. And I wonder if the climax of “Tricks” would have hit me in the gut the way it did if I’d known As You Like It a little better; maybe it’d have been even more intense:

“Shakespeare should have prepared her. Twins are often the reason for mix-ups and disasters in Shakespeare. A means to an end, those tricks are supposed to be. And in the end the mysteries are solved, the pranks are forgiven, true love or something like it is rekindled, and those who were fooled have the good grace not to complain.”

Anyway, a wonderful collection, and I’ll be loaning my copy to my mother-in-law.

This week I’ve also continued reading stories from the quirky Michel Faber collection, but they’re irritating me so much I’m about to reshelve the book. Maybe I’ll appreciate them more if they’re not dovetailed with stories written by a woman at the height of her abilities, because these are most definitely the work of a writer at the beginning of his career. The cover blurb claims Some Rain Must Fall is the “monstrous, magnificent first-born” of Somerset Maugham and Ian McEwan, but it’s reminding me more of second-rate Vonnegut and early Robin Hemley. And Hemley would never, ever have broken the tight third person perspective of the young protagonist of “Somewhere Warm and Comfortable” to toss in one throwaway line of perspective from his older sister that adds NOTHING to the story. Where, oh where was the editor on this one? Yes, I do have Princess and the Pea sensibilities when it comes to nonsense like this—one mistake like this is enough to ruin a story for me. Grrr.

Otherwise I’ve read a couple of Elizabeth Bowen stories which did not upset my ever so finely-tuned literary sensibilities and I’ve read almost a hundred pages in Alexander Hamilton. I’ve read the first several pages of Julian and through chapter 11 in Don Quixote.

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