In her latest book of short stories, An Unshared Secret, Ketaki Datta shows her skill with the form, creating a series of twenty short stories set primarily in Datta’s home country of India, mostly in or around Kolkata. The capital of West Bengal is so much a presence in these stories that it almost functions as a character itself, providing more than a backdrop.
But regardless of genre, these character-driven pieces explore uncomfortable truths and show how patriarchal power structures encourage violence against women, physical and psychological. Each story has new characters confronting different forms of abuse and betrayal. Two high schoolers dealing with body issues bully each other with a mix of fascination and revulsion.
Still hammering away at the keyboard at age 74, T.C. Boyle still maintains his place as America’s grand poobah of literary fiction, particularly displaying his mastery in the short story genre; and this most recent collection of 13 tightly crafted slices of life intermixed with occasional forays into his beloved magical realism prove that he is still at the top of his game.
There’s heartbreak and humor, magic and flawed humanity, disappointment and longing, charming wordplay and breathtaking literary craft, but no happy endings. Cheating husbands and boyfriends abound, as do unreliable fathers, disappointed girlfriends and deceived women stretching all the way back to Eve. Literally.
Throughout the text Garza challenges the readers memory of what came before in the text using the window, but also through the pervasive repeated “I remember(s)” that occur throughout the text. Each time a thing is remembered it is changed, slightly altered. Which begs the question, how is what we have read previously in the text altered through both the frame of our own remembrance of it and the continual recollections of the narrator?
Almost Deadly, Almost Good is a complex web of sins and virtues that presents a wider, more multidimensional world. The stories are fantastic melodrama and human emotion and demonstrate the nature of humanity in more than black and white terms.
As the reader gets into the stories, the fairytale nature of their shortcomings likewise becomes clear, giving these stories an air of fable – not a moral lesson so much as an insight into human frailties and failings, both mothers and their offspring, merely two sides of the same coin; a parade of characters who come up short.
Regardless of the failings of his narrators and assorted ne’er do well characters, these tales are told in a generous, recognizably human voice, marking Borofka as a writer in whose company you’ll find deep pleasure. Characters’ failings are both unflinchingly observed and held in tender, witty regard, even after a lifetime of screw ups. Most are wrestling with the gap between their modest youthful dreams and the limits imposed by adult realities.
It is always both true and fictive, and like dreams, pieced together from a grab-bag of images and turned into stories that reflect the themes being explored. The Age of Fibs picks up on this uncertainty beautifully and works with it, allowing for openness, complexity, and fragmentation, while still keeping the coherency of the story intact.
This short story collection by doctor/ writer Fiona Robertson, lures us into intimate scenarios where joy and its adversary– fear– are coterminous. From a lovelorn housewife caught in a literal storm and a lonely man in a housing estate, Robertson’s characters drip in pathos and multidimensionality within the tight confines of each story, leaving readers saying a reticent farewell, wondering after the characters, ambivalent about their predicaments.