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In one very short novel and five short stories, Godwin continues to monitor--with a kind of wary bemusement--the fascinating whorls and asocial display of personalities lost within their own outsize needs and dilemmas. In Mr. Bedford and the Muses, narrator Carrie Ames reconstructs her young days in London (1962-64) when she boarded, along with a handful of other young people, with the Eastons--a middle-aged American couple, mysteriously exiled, still retaining the "outlines" of undoubted privilege and "former beauty." Mrs. Easton orchestrates the postprandial "family" social hour like a duchess, after cooking the best meals in London; Mr. Easton polishes his favorite bizarre anecdote--about a lady with a tail--for each new guest. But the Eastons also lie, steal, and play favorites. So Carrie is alternately chilled and warmed, delighted, enraged, hurt, and amused. . . and catches the past splendor of the Eastons' grand "burning of bridges" before a tail-flick of caprice moved them into the shoddy present. In "Cultural Exchange," a young woman boards with an elderly Dane, an authoritarian old tyrant who has driven away one son and reduced the other to childhood irresponsibility--and she "slips into the role of dutiful daughter," both uneasy and glowing with his approbation (again, as in Mr. Bedford, manipulated by another's fathomless, imperious need). In "A Father's Pleasures," a concert pianist gives his son an extraordinary gift--the father's young second wife--while he himself marries again and continues to play Liszt, his romanticism misting over a cruel past. In "Amanuensis" and "St. John," two writers of fiction wrestle with their blocks and their solitude: one is "released" by companionship--thanks to some vengeful dirty tricks; the other, drawn to the "strange, lonely and mad," finds a bizarre and wonderful passion. And, in the serio/comic "The Angry Year," a pre-Sixties college freshman, wavering between rebellious rage and frat/sorority belonging, hunts down within herself "the crass conformist. . . inside the rebel." In sum: luminous fictions, full of quiet, patiently earned discoveries.
Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1983
ISBN: 0345390210
Page count: 229pp
Publisher: Viking
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 1983


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