Sixteen aggressively varied short fictions--""stories"" would give the wrong, too-accessible impression--from the erudite, allusive author of Falstaff, Faust, and The Voyage of the Destiny. At his most experimental, Nye offers impossibly dense, quasi-Joycean narratives that parody conventional storytelling (""Your author doesn't think that is going to do. Try again"") while stringing together images or repetitions in a sometimes-hypnotic rhythm. ""The Whole Story"" combines this free-associative technique with a send-up of all literary biography: Gertrude Stein is Henry James' niece (and heir), her lover is D. H. Lawrence, Kipling is her butler, their guests include Joyce and ""Senator Double You Be Yeats,"" etc., etc. Elsewhere, however, Nye's dark whimsy leads him into somewhat less daunting constructs: ""Visakha"" is a consistently funny sf-parody/fable; ""The Barber"" is a very short, creepy/hilarious bit of surrealistic social-comedy--with an unpredictable, verbally freewheeling (academic, abusive), and vaguely threatening hair-cutter; ""The Second Best Bed (the standout in Shakespeare Stories, p. 19) features the curt voice of Anne Hathaway. And there's even a relatively straightforward slice of childhood reminiscence. . . in the title story's brisk variation on the familiar notion of the father unable to tell his son the Facts of Life. Curious stuff, in short--some for literati, a few for a wider readership, and a few for nobody much at all.
Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1983
Page Count: -
Publisher: Hamish Hamilton--dist. by David & Charles