April 17, 2008 § Leave a comment

It has been ages since I’ve read my way through a collection of short stories, a genre which I believe contributes greatly to literature however and is a difficult wordscape as well.  My last such book was Jennifer Weiner’s THE GUY NOT TAKEN which was somewhat uneven yet its title story being a movie (or so it was rumored) convinced me there was some value. I keep it of course; there are few mere guestbooks in this house, that is books that come in, can’t get comfortable and are destined to go out again. All are invited; most stay though some purchased from the remainder shelf hold iffy positions, only because HM and I love books we can go back to, dip in, have a nice read and a chat. (“Dorks,” I hear our daughter Laylou saying! Hmmm…romantic, I prefer to think.)

Anyway, I do get a weekly dose of the short story genre in THE NEW YORKER.  While I might forego a shiny page with poetry on it, I always push through the short story that’s offered. Always. Which is where I first met Junot Diaz and several other “moderns.”

Several weeks ago, EL Doctorow (with whom I fell in love way back at RAGTIME and stayed with him, collecting his novels and watching him write this way and that, always winning me) had WAKEFIELD in the NY mag. The story’s narrator was real yet odd enough to have me interested in his crazy suburban escapade and arrive at an ending I never saw coming though it was being based solely on a character trait (which I should have seen). (True confession: It’s not plot that gets me; it’s characterization.)

You gotta read it. Don’t tell me (or blame me) if you don’t like it.

What a different and opposite reaction I had to TC Boyle’s short story THE LIE that I read last night.  Again, it was all about character. And an excellent piece of writing for that. However, Boyle’s character ends in pain and confusion and the reader is saying…”um, wait…wait…are you sure? Don’t go in that bar, just go home…are you sure?” But Boyle’s character doesn’t hear you.

Doctorow’s character in Wakefield,  who is older, is unaware of his pain.  

A “sequel” to each of the stories plucks at the imagination.


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