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.

Monday, 16 April 2012

"The Best American Short Stories 2009" by Alice Sebold (ed) (Mariner, 2009)

I didn't see anything in "The Idiot President". I liked "Yurt" (also from The New Yorker). "Beyond the Pale" had believable characters, and like many of the other stories, a pacy plot. Alice Fulton's "A Shadow Table" had many anecdotes with morals, and much about repression and etiquette. It ends with an allusion to porn - "How do they express their devotion without kissing?" ... I held out a handful of snow and put his mouth to it

Eleanor Henderson's "The Farms" was my favourite story in the book - detailed, with keen observation.

  • Rusty half-moons from the sprinklers stained the first floors(p.94)
  • On the balconies, you might see a cooler of beer, a cactus plant on a paper plate, or a Florida Gators folding chair (p.94)
  • it was hard to tell whether the gray sky through the kitchen window was left over from the storm or if it was just dark with the settling evening (p.103)

The narrator, a 13 year-old white girl whose younger brother has died from AIDS (a blood tranfusion), babysits two little black girls (first and fourth graders) whose father has died from friendly fire. They live in the block opposite - "We got the same house", I heard Bernice note for the third time that day, "except it's backwards." (p.105). Similarities and contrasts are brought out as play becomes macabre. Public assumptions clash with private details.

  • I had seen adults court small children, vying for their attention ... I had never had to stoop to such methods. I wasn't used to kids resisting my charms. I wondered if Donatella didn't like white people, or if she just didn't like me (p.98)
  • I was only vaguely aware that a war had taken place at all, let alone that people had died in it (p.99)
  • "My mama said he had AIDS, like the crack hos and junkies in Belle Glade. I didn't know white people could catch it" (p.103)

Adam Johnson's "Hurricanes Anonymous" at nearly 40 pages was the longest piece. Again, lots of detail (clothes are described). It fades in the last couple or so pages. "Sagittarius" is the only non-Realist piece, but I don't think it made enough of its freedom. In "The Anniversary Trip" a wife tells her mother-in-law that she's going to divorce her son before informing her son. The wife's mother features too. "Modulation" was about downloaded music and viruses. I didn't grab me. "Ostracon" combined paragraphs about brain science with observations of incipient Alzheimers - the feeling that one has to photograph events in order for them to become meaningful.

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