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.

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

"The Destiny of Natalie X and other stories" by William Boyd (Sinclair-Stevenson, 1995)

Stories from Granta and London Magazine that range from 2 to over 40 pages long.

The title story is multi-PoV but otherwise not very interesting. I liked "Transfigured Night" more. It features Wittgenstein ("I contemplated their naked bodies. I saw that they were men, but I could not see they were human beings"). The major theme is suicide. His brother decides to continue his piano career though he's had an arm amputated in the war - "There is silence, and then I say 'Bravo, Paul. Bravo.' And, spontaneously, we all clap him". "Hotel des Voyageurs" is a non-event. "Never Saw Brazil" is preferable to "The Dream Lover", thought neither appeal much. Boy gets girl again. American language-students in France again.

In "Alpes Maritime" sisters are again fancied by the same man. This time they're twins who share a room even after the man often stays the night with one of them - the one he fancies least. By studying behaviour he tries to assess the progression of couple's relationships. "N is for N" fails.

As one of the reviews below suggests,"The Persistence of Vision" could act as a manual for reading these stories. The male is even more calculating than is usual in this book - "the casual invitation absent-mindedly offered just as one was saying goodbye, about to set off: 'Look, I don't suppose you'd fancy ...?'". But it's not much of a story, though there are many details to enjoy.

I didn't understand what the final story, "Cork", was trying to do. I felt the same about many of the other stories too, which rather surprised me because the description of his style made me think I'd like the stories.

Other reviews

  • Good reads
  • Michael Franks (LA Times) (Setting aside two of the briefest, which are fragments themselves, seven of the remaining nine stories are assembled out of discrete images or their narrative equivalent, which Boyd works into a number of different collages ... their connection is less one of theme than of technique--although, by the end of the book, the technique virtually becomes its theme, as we see that Boyd has been endeavoring to demonstrate that discrete images, when combined artfully enough on the page, can bring about animation in the reader's mind ... The physiological eye may possess persistence of vision, but the reader's inner eye resents having to fill in quite so many gaps. ... the narrative pyrotechnics still draw more of our attention than the characters' feelings or inner lives. )
  • Michael Upchurch (NY Times) (He is at once as playful as the most perverse metafictionist yet as passionate as the lushest writer of romance. He has a taste for ambiguity and, at the same time, a frank appetite for slapstick ... Many of the stories' startling contrasts in texture are explained by the author's fascination with different means of perception -- whether the camera lens, as in the title story, or the painter's selective eye, in ''The Persistence of Vision,'' or a pocket diary in the pithy jeu d'esprit ''Lunch'' (which could have been written by Donald Barthelme). Whatever the refracting device, Mr. Boyd's ability to zero in on ordinary human foibles and woes -- daydream delusions, cultural dislocations, emotional smash-ups -- is swift and sure. ... Only two pieces fail to come to life: ''N Is for N,'' a commissioned piece for an illustrated alphabet by David Hockney, and ''Hotel des Voyageurs,'' an elusive vignette that takes its inspiration from a passage by Cyril Connolly.)

No comments:

Post a Comment