Thursday, November 11, 2010

More experiments and some finality

kw: story reviews, continued review, anthologies

Continuing and concluding prior reviews of stories in The PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories for 2010.
  • Into the Gorge by Ron Rash: Two lives in counterpoint, a man's great aunt who ends her life sitting unclothed under a tree in winter, and he, getting old, revisiting the land he no longer owns, and getting into more than a spot of trouble over it. As I read, a refrain of an old song: "I fought the law, and the law won." Right or wrong, it always does.
  • Microstories by John Edgar Wideman: In the endnotes, the author says a requested short short was followed by 120 others, of which this is a selection of eighteen. They range from evocative to disturbing, from one that is a single 500-word sentence to one that includes nearly as many full stops as words.
  • Some Women by Alice Munro: The story's impact hinges on a single decision by a dying man, perhaps the only decision he's been allowed by the powerful women who surround him.
  • Making Good by Lore Segal: Based on a few real incidents, descendants of "good Germans" (or in this story, Viennese) are closeted with Jews who've lost family members in the Holocaust. Who knows what people think? The focus character seems satisfied at the end, for no good reason; satisfied it is over, I suppose.
I'd say there were three stories I was glad I'd read, and only one or two that I felt wasted my time. I clearly have sensibilities very, very different from those who chose this collection.

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