The powerful descriptions alone, especially towards the end, are staggering. Its almost hard to find words for it.
A good introduction to Edith Wharton's work. This collection contains Mrs Mainstey's View, which is surely one of Wharton's best short stories and as good as any of Elizabeth Bowen's stories. It's a simply written but deeply moving story, with an ending that is inevitable yet none the less shocking for it. There is great empathy here in the characterisation. Wonderful stuff. Worth checking out just for that one alone. But this collection also has her better known stories The Bolted Door, Kerfol, and Dilettante. If you like these you should check out Ethan Frome, too.
This book is awful. I came to this book with high hopes after reading all the praise that preceded the contents and was sorely disappointed. Never has a collection produced such a strong dislike in me and wonderment at how or why writers/editors give such unjustified praise to a book that is mediocre or in this case downright awful. The book is a collection of short stories where supposedly strange things happen, as in the title. The first story is about a man who seems to be dead and what does he do with his time? Well, he wanders about on a beach and masturbates in a hotel room. That’s all. The story is a wash out, nothing happens in the end. Actually all of the stories just fizzle out to nothing, end up meaningless. After about the third story you start to wonder why you are bothering to read this stuff. I found myself confused most of the time, as to who was talking, who the writer was talking about, what was going on or supposed to be going on, and nothing seemed to make sense or add up. The writing jumps about all over the place, present tense one minute, past tense the next, jumps viewpoints left and right until you don’t know or care what is going on. I’m not against breaking convention, if it is done well it is great –and great writers have done it, Joyce etc- but it doesn’t come off in this collection, probably through inexperience, lack of skill, as it was the writer’s first collection. So I read the second story, hoping it would be better. The second story is about a boy and a girl and her weird parents (the father has fake noses and the mother a prosthetic leg, whoopee) but it ends up fizzling out and leaves you wondering what it was supposed to mean, if anything at all. The characters were badly drawn, the prose erratic and seemed to be a deliberate attempt to be modern but just ends up being confusing. The specialist hat is probably the most conventional of the stories (babysitter, something in the house etc.) but even here it fizzles out and is too vague to produce the frisson that it should. After this, I didn’t want to read on and when I did (only because I realised I wanted to let others know how bad this books was) the stories were so confusing that I found myself wondering where I was and where the characters were and what in the hell was going on and seriously wondering if there had been some really bad typos here somewhere. The characters all seem the same, the settings are unclear, the dialogue is stilted, the stories seem pointedly strange to the point of silliness. I’m still wondering if the awards that this collection received were all part of the fiction. Surely somebody’s idea of a joke! I really wonder.
An instantly forgettable collection of experimental stories. Too vague and confusing to be worth attempting to read through the swamp of nonsense. You’ll probably give up after the third one, like I did.
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