THE BRIDE AT ARTA by J. I. M. Stewart


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Six very characteristic short stories by the erudite British author (a.k.a. Michael Innes) of the academia-based Pattullo series and the more recent Andrew and Tobias. Two ironic pieces hinge on matters of scholarly ethics: ""The Time Bomb,"" in which a bored, handsome young English teacher somewhat underhandedly slides into academic renown--until his semi-forgery catches up with him, along with assorted, bisexual mis-steps in romance; and ""The Chomsky File,"" the story of two contrasting academics--the messy, unpublished genius vs. the famous, dapper bookman--and what happens when the famous chap tries, at long last, to give his dithering old pal (the frequent source of his ideas) some overdue credit. Stewart's preoccupation with the remnants of class-consciousness is here too: in ""A Reading in Trollope,"" Sir Bernard Balymayne frets over the idea that his daughter is marrying the son of the Balmaynes' long-ago, crooked butler--until Sir B. discovers (in a limp twist-ending) a secret about his own father. And there's the familiar Stewart interest in rather clinical psychology--in the case-history of a country lad falsely accused of being an arsonist; in the rather murky tare of three young English men losing their virginities in 1930s Vienna. Throughout, as ever, the prose is generally crisp, wry, elegant. The characterization, however, is rarely fully convincing (all those handsome, coyly asexual young men), and only one story seems properly shaped: the brief, Maugham-ish title piece--in which septuagenarian Lady Cameron encounters her long-ago ex-husband (a monomaniácal bore) on a package tour. . . and finds that ""Age has not withered him nor custom staled his infinite monotony."" Fair entertainment for Stewart fans, then, but the short-story is not his forte.

Pub Date: April 19th, 1982
Publisher: Norton