Nineteen stories, six new, consider a range of choices and consequences.
Editor of the Kenyon Review, Lynn (Wrestling with Gabriel, 2002, not reviewed) writes at varying length in this collection. The longer pieces are better than the short, which can seem perfunctory and incomplete. Lynn’s skill is at times considerable. His characters can be attractively and plausibly rounded. When he considers their delicate dilemmas at length, the results are sometimes distinctive. “Mistaken Identity,” for example, traces Vera Kahn’s trip to India funded by USIS. Frequently taken for Veera Kahn, a celebrated “black” poet, this white woman is both accustomed to and tired of the mild disappointment her appearance frequently generates. Her journey through Delhi, Jaipur and Simla is a dense and finely observed vignette. Themes in this collection include teaching and academe, lonely men, aging professionals, race and sexual compulsion. Several stories take place in India; however, the majority, examining human foibles and failings, are set within American communities, among ordinary lives. But the structure of the collection works against it, with most of the strongest narratives clustered at the beginning. Later they become briefer, some as little as a couple of pages, seemingly snapshots, with diminished impact.
Too many stories in an unbalanced collection, but containing proof, in the more measured pieces, of an energetic imagination.