Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Nothing Right

Provided free from Amazon Vine
Okay, then, this collection makes a great follow-up to my post about stories that appear in The New Yorker because the stories in this collection that didn't appear in that magazine should have. Antonya Nelson's work here typifies that group of elite literary writers these days who appear to write more for each other than for a larger audience. One imagines that the main characters in these stories are almost all either thinly disguised versions of the author or people from the circles in which she travels.

Just about every character here is middle class, hovering somewhere around 40, divorced or cheating or being cheated on or all three. The surrounding cast of characters may vary slightly in that the kids may be older or younger, well-behaved or delinquent, the lover's age might vary, but the main character appears over and over in a slightly––very slightly––different play.

Within this circle of writers I refer to above, cheating is such a matter of course that no motive need be given and only the slightest lip service is paid to guilt or angst. Husbands are, of course, non-descript beings who don't know how to "give". Supposedly mature women fall in and out of love like adolescents and regularly follow strange men to their homes or apartments without the slightest thought of ending up a naked corpse in a ditch somewhere.

The characters here are so frustratingly flat they remind me of Barbie dolls. You can buy Mermaid Barbie or Native American Barbie or Beach Barbie, but really they are all the same doll only wearing different clothes. That's the way these stories left me feeling.

To summarize, if you are one of those who reads The New Yorker each month waiting to see what new gem of literary fiction will be included, this collection is for you. If you are like me and puzzle most months over what, exactly, is supposed to make those stories so great, then give this one a pass.

1 comment:

Kathryn Magendie said...

hate hate stock or flat characters!