March 8, 1991 |
James Laughlin, founder of New Directions press, has not only published adventurous contemporary fiction but found time himself to produce an impressive body of criticism, short fiction and verse. A tribute to a distinguished man of letters, "Random Stories" collects a dozen quietly powerful short stories written early in his career; it also includes an informal and candid autobiographical essay and an affectionate tribute by Octavio Paz.
December 14, 1998 |
"I know when one is dead." The line is King Lear's; the dead one, his youngest daughter Cordelia; the writer, Shakespeare. I have seen many great actors (and even actresses) read that line. And yet the performance I remember best is that of the critic and teacher Richard Sewell in a lecture theater filled with 300 college students. It was the first class of the term. We all knew that Sewell, a gentle man with a bewildered shock of white hair, had just lost his wife over the winter vacation.
May 1, 1988 |
Frederic Raphael went to Cambridge University in the early '50s and never got over it. Three decades, 14 novels, and three volumes of short stories later, Raphael's university days remain, it appears, the dominant shaping influence of his life.
May 11, 2007 |
Amy Hempel, short story writer, is spending a rainy morning at a Madison Avenue diner. She is 56 years old. Her flowing hair is silvery-white. Her speech is clear, but careful. She sometimes edits herself as she talks or advances her thoughts as if placing one foot slowly before the other. For more than 20 years, she has been creating stories, short stories.
March 30, 1995 |
"Beyond the mountains there are mountains" goes one of the Haitian proverbs that work their tutelary spirit through Edwidge Dantikat's stories. The Creole sayings of that unfortunate island keep it in one particular sense from being utterly bereft. For Haitians to hurl those six laconic words at the harshness that forbids them passage is to acknowledge it and lift it at the same time. Haiti's proverbs, like Chekhov's plays, light up what rises when men and women are borne down.
March 11, 2012 |
Hot Pink Adam Levin McSweeney's Books: 211 pp., $22 In the nine years it took Adam Levin to write his 1,030-page novel "The Instructions" (2010), he was also publishing short fiction. Those pieces, plus a few more, are gathered in the trim collection "Hot Pink," proving that even with a tiny word count, Levin can tell a good, funny story. This collection is front loaded: Its best pieces, surreal and sardonic, appear at the book's beginning. First is "Frankenwittgenstein," in which Mike, a teenage boy, tells the story of his father's sudden dismay over anorexia, his effort to invent a doll that might combat it, and how his plunge into obsession affects his family.
December 15, 1995 |
Let's just assume, for the sake of argument, that you've all read Harriet Doerr's first book, "Stones for Ibarra" (Viking / Penguin, 1984) and most likely, her second book, "Consider This, Senora" (Harcourt Brace, 1993). (Having read the first and waited nine long years, you would certainly have devoured the second, unless you were out of the country or off the planet.
December 25, 1992 |
There are two Kit Reeds, the briskly efficient plotter who wrote the taut suspense novel "Gone" under the name of Kit Craig and her alter ego, the pensive author of "Thief of Lives," 15 tales of anguished accommodation to circumstances defying control. One way and another, both the recent thriller and the short stories deal with loss and the various ways we struggle to cope with guilt, despair and the chasms that separate families and friends.
August 7, 1988 |
Australians are celebrating two centuries of European settlement on that far-flung continent. And many of them are talking about how the nation has come of age, freed at last from colonial thinking, blessed now with unlimited prospects. Murray Bail, one of Australia's most original writers, has set out to prove the same for the country's fiction, through a collection of 32 modern short stories representing two dozen writers.
October 31, 1997 |
Longing can be so distasteful. Pining is palatable; neediness, repulsive; desire, a little sticky, but still it is one of the fundamental elements of life. "Desire is a figment swiftly fleeting," writes Rikki Ducornet in the title story of "The Word 'Desire,' " an ephemeral enactment upon the finite stage of the world, where flesh is a flame and a seeming. Is it true then, she thinks, all is fire?