THE BOOKMAN'S TALE AND OTHERS by Berry Fleming

THE BOOKMAN'S TALE AND OTHERS

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

From the veteran Fleming, a pleasant but forgettable collection of a novella and several short stories. The title novella is the story of Edward Ray, an aging southerner who runs a small press and who has just lost his wife in a car accident. On hearing that his old girlfriend, Claudia (whom he hasn't seen in decades), is now a widow and is visiting friends in San Juan des Pinos, he decides to go see her with a vague idea of rekindling the old flame. A simple enough plot idea, but Fleming's maddeningly elliptical prose loops in and out of past and present, refusing to alight anywhere for very long. We learn of Edward's modest life, the lives of the people he meets on the freighter he takes to the island (they take turns telling their ""stories"")--but it's all inconsequential to the Claudia/Edward meeting, which actually never takes place (although Edward does meet a young woman who may in fact be his own daughter by Claudia). In the four short stories that round out the book, Fleming's prose is crisper, but the fictions are run-of-the-mill and uncompelling: the Twilight Zone-ish tale of a golfer who meets death in the form of a polite young soldier, or the story of a rich woman abandoned by the young leeches who call themselves her friends. The exception is ""War Memoria,"" the sturdy story of a liberal doctor forced to collaborate with the FBI to catch a suspected Nazi spy during WW II. In sum: unremarkable fiction from a writer who (on better days) has a William Maxwell-like touch.

Pub Date: Sept. 15th, 1986
Publisher: Cotton Lane (Cotton Lane at 18-8 St., Augusta, GA 30901)