SUCCESS: New and Selected Stories by Hilary Masters

SUCCESS: New and Selected Stories

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Sixteen stories with various settings, ranging from Ireland to Tuscany; a graceful stylist, Masters (Strickland, 1989, etc.) mainly uses atmosphere to reconstruct family memories. ""A Mechanic's Life"" is typical of his methods. In it, a man fascinated with machinery and with ""native genius"" buys a brush-cutter and tinkers with it; juxtaposed to his obsession is his wife's unease: in an understated finish, she ends up leaving him. The title story likewise contrasts a narrator's memories of his half-brother, buried in Ohio--he owned furniture stores--with a story-within-a-story conversation between the narrator and his wife. In ""Hall of Mirrors,"" which begins with a group of students at the Palace of Versailles, a family photo album serves as the narrative device whereby Masters allows a family to roam through its past. Such memory pieces roughly alternate with slightly plotted stories of psychological conflict like ""A Mechanic's Life""--in ""Trotsky's House,"" for instance, set in Mexico, a man burdened with a ""fascination...for the apocalyptic"" drags his wife to Trotsky's house and proceeds through it, the tour and its complications nicely serving as correlative to the troubles that beset the couple. The same goes for ""Face in the Window,"" in which a stiff professor lectures a group of students as they tour Tuscany, and for ""The Catch,"" about a couple in Ireland faced with the sudden death of a stranger. A collection that consists of a series of elegies, as though Masters has decided to sum up the fictional pasts of his people. He manages to do this in a sensitive and poetic prose.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1992
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: St. Martin's