Books by Stephen Hayward

OBSESSION by Sarah Lefanu
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Oct. 1, 1995

An uneven if intermittently distinguished gathering of one essay and 15 stories (all but two original), each related to the theme of the title, from editors LeFanu and Hayward (the anthologies God, 1993, and Colors of a New Day, 1990). If juicy rationalizations get people through the day, then obsessions seem to get them through life's rough patches. Interestingly, it's the more limber, less brittle American voices here that contribute most memorably. Joyce Carol Oates's ``Life After High School'' establishes a shadowy, awkward romantic triangle whose third leg remains veiled until the epilogue. And Allan Gurganus's essay, ``Ode to Boy (Whitman at the Mall),'' has more fun with its voyeuristic survey of adolescent culture than the film Kids ever will. Meanwhile, Ivan Vladislavic's ``The Book Lover'' sends an eccentric South African bibliophile in search of the library of a woman he's fallen for entirely through the books he knows she once had. In Mary Flanagan's ``Folding,'' origami saves a group of art-school friends from their romantic confusion. ``The Anxieties of Desire,'' from James Hamilton-Paterson, follows the failed career of a French expatriate composer as he envies and loathes, with considerable anti-Semitism, the success of another, younger composer who shares his name. A few of the tales (Jeff Torrington's ``The Fade''; Adam Thorpe's ``Rigging'') suffer from English dialects that don't always ring intelligibly in American ears. Still, several minor pleasures lurk here and there. Lisa Tuttle tells a sexual ghost story (``In Jealousy''), and Ursule Molinaro completely inverts the terms of beauty in ``Rat Mother,'' one of those stories that gets funnier as it gains in grimness. Michäle Roberts's ``Lists'' is little more than an extended gimmick, but Cherry Wilder's ``Findings'' manages to wring ample suspense from a willfully limited premise. Not completely enthralling, but worth picking up for the four or five good pieces. Read full book review >
GOD by Stephen Hayward
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Nov. 1, 1993

Each of 19 different writers gives us a take on the divine- -with more points of view and tones of voice than in the whole of the Old Testament. Feeling that ``in the last ten years, religion has re-entered the public consciousness,'' the editors set out to see what the current literary scene could make of it. They might well have been surprised by what they found. Many stories here are typical expressions of the anger and disillusionment that have pervaded most modern treatments of the subject, but there are quite a few wild cards in the deck—and these from unlikely sources. In Aamer Hussein's ``Your Children,'' a secular Indonesian intellectual watches her children grow up to embrace the Islamic precepts she'd left behind, then throw themselves into the political turmoil that surrounded the Gulf War of 1991. There is also plenty of feminist angst: both Tony Grist (``The White Lady'') and John Wakeman (``Sherry at the Rectory'') write of the frustration of women who want to serve a Church that won't ordain them, and Maureen Duffy's ``Last Priestess'' crucifies herself—literally—in a show of contempt for Christianity. Joyce Carol Oates's ``Work in Progress'' manages to incarnate the awkward soullessness of the suburban classes in Michael O'Meara, a twentysomething Candide who drifts from seminary to medical school to home without picking up much of anything along the way. Christopher Hope (``My Stigmata'') and James Morrow (``The Soap Opera'') both approach the subject for its comic potential—the book of Job as a sitcom, the stigmata as an embarrassment to agnosticism—with little wit and less grace. Only David Plante's recollections of a lover's suicide (``The Space About God'') manage to evoke a real mystery that is all the more palpable in that the narrator himself cannot understand what has happened and cannot rest in his ignorance. No one else seems to convey the proper obsession. A very mixed bag, with a few gems amid the dreck. Read full book review >