Literary reviews by Tim Love.
Warning: Rather than reviews, these are often notes in preparation for reviews that were never finished, or pleas for help with understanding pieces. See Litref Reviews - a rationale for details.

Friday, 23 December 2011

"The Best American Short Stories 2010" ed Richard Russo (Mariner, 2010)

A very naturalistic selection (except for the odd seagull), with straightforward narrative voices and common situations, though reviewers seem to like it. A couple of stories are set a few decades ago (e.g. fleeing Paris in WW2), and there's a near-future story. Of the 19 stories, 8 stories feature a death, though not always as the central event. 5 stories feature couples separating. The shortest story is about 3000 words. The most-represented magazines are Tin House (4), The New Yorker (2), The Atlantic (3), and McSweeney's (3). The foreword talks about the challenge of online publications.

I liked Kevin Moffett's "Further Interpretations of Real-Life Events" most - a young writer's challenged by his father becoming a writer. It included the sentence "You'll never earn a living writing stories, not if you're any good at it". I'd already read Egan's "Safari" in her novel. "The Seagull Army Descends on Strong Beach" lingers with me.

"The Netherlands Lives with Water" is perhaps the most complex, using the setting of global warming in 2015 as a source of symbolism - "schoolchildren have learned as one of their first geography sentences Between Camperduin and Petten lie three dikes: the Watcher, the Sleeper, and the Dreamer" (p.332). A relationship is floundering, but only in the penultimate paragraph do matters became lyrically explicit - "We went on vacations and fielded each other's calls and took turns reading Henk to sleep and let slip away that miracle that was there between us when we first came together. We hunkered down before the wind picked up. We modeled for our son risk management when we could have been embracing the free fall of that astonishing Here. This is yours to hold. We said to each other I think I know when we should have said Lead me farther through your amazing, amazing interior" (p.336)

In "The Cowboy Tango" a paragraph begins "Ten years passed this way" then a few pages later "More years went by". A long-standing work relationship at a ranch between the male boss and female ranch-hand is upset by a visitor - a relative of the man who has an affair with the woman then goes away, leaving his horse, Digger, and some paintings of the woman. "She reached down and touched her own closed eyes. She could feel the texture of the canvas through the paint" (p.357). The boss takes Digger to an auction without telling her. She finds out, tries to use all her saving to buy it back, but is out-bidded - by the boss who's changed his mind.

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