DR. HEART: A Novella and Other Stories by Eleanor Clark

DR. HEART: A Novella and Other Stories

Email this review


This collection shows off Eleanor Clark's gifts to far greater advantage than her novel, Baldur's Gate, where they were dissipated. A writer established for her remarkable sense of place -- far more than just scene-setting (Rome and a Villa, etc.) -- which she affirms in pieces such as ""The Heart of the Afternoon"" where ""the day goes dead and nothing matters"" on a Washington slum street, or in the elegant memories, now betrayed, of a ball in a once magnificent old hotel, or in the purely descriptive ""Summer in Puerto Rico"" with its Americanization/vulgarization -- voodoo-lights, howling radios and inferiority ""like a cloud of soot."" For a change of pace try ""Call Me Comrade"" in which an elderly suffragist, having engaged in an anti-Fascist protest, triumphantly enjoys her moment in the sun when she is jailed, or the Roald Dahlesque horror story, ""The Man for Her,"" about an un. obtrusively sinister exterminator. These stories have been written over an almost thirty-year time-span and they sharpen with the years. The title novella is contemporary and deals with the ""crise d'identite"" of nice, rather naive, and most unsettled Tom Bestwick. He's a fellowship student ill at ease in the belle France he'd loved through the eyes of an earlier writer-mentor (his thesis-to-be) and also out of touch with the other Americans abroad. His crimped command of the language, as well as the encysted French insularity, makes it difficult for him to connect anywhere, whether with Dr. Heart, who turns out to be a veterinary, or the non-functioning functionary at the Prefecture, or a girl. . . . All of these stories are flecked with ironies and insights and, most of all, a sense of change in terms of devaluation and genuine loss. Eleanor Clark's work reminds us that simplicity is a skill only seldom acquired and close to an art when gracefully applied.

Pub Date: Dec. 30th, 1974
Publisher: Pantheon