PARLOUR 4 And Other Stories by J.I.M. Stewart

PARLOUR 4 And Other Stories

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Another short-story collection by the veteran British author of f donnish puzzlers (as Michael Innes), and elegantly shaped, if a bit airless, erudite novels and stories about bizarre twists in somewhat erratic lives. These nine stories are mainly comic in tone and situation, and several have an ironic sting. ""Andre"" tells of a young boy's infatuation and a young girl's compassion--sunlit emotions on a resort beach that will never mingle, except in the gesture in which a gem is thrown into the sea. In ""Melencolia I,"" a London society artist has undertaken the portrait of an ancient, very glum philospher, declared by his chauffeur to have emitted ""never a cheery chirp."" Yet in his death's-edge euphoria, in which the philosopher becomes a hearty buccaneer at heart, he spears the increasingly gloomy painter with the charge that he must move onto the ""magnum opus"" in. stead of turning out ""tarted-up daubs of socialite nonentities."" A ""harmless little man,"" a teacher and scholar, deep into his secure and tiny field of early English lexicography, discovers ""Two Strings to His Bow"" and becomes a novelist, producing two books, dry-as-library-dust, and then in a rush to outdo an undeserving peer, he writes a sex-blazing best-seller, repeats the formula, and then abruptly subsides into ""harmless little"" scholar again, while ""murmuring to himself several relevant apothegms in a learned tongue."" In ""Tom, Dick and Harry,"" parental and brotherly love is blasted apart when the adopted son, Tom, discovers his intellectual superiority, and cuts himself off from his inferiors. The author sounds an echo of sci-fi flicks in ""The Dyslexia Factor,"" in which Oxford is hit by the terrible plague of reading disability. ""Pipkin Grove"" is a broadbrush burlesque featuring a working-class family whose troublesome notoriety, via media and bogus parapsychologists, arises from Pa's unfortunate attack of prophetic dÉjà vu. There's a shred of pale nonsense about a family name change and two childhood tales--one oversweet, one oversour. For Stewart's special following, a handful of fairly amusing pieces--faintly acidulous, wily, and with a niceness of word-use to warm the hearts of those who cherish the flavor of English untouched by TV's mega-speak.

Pub Date: June 9th, 1986
Publisher: Norton