MYSTERIES OF THE BODY AND THE MIND by John Taylor

MYSTERIES OF THE BODY AND THE MIND

Stories
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KIRKUS REVIEW

Taylor (The Presence of Things Past, 1992) returns with stories that aim for the perfect nuance and control of his first volume but that, this time around, seem hungry for content. Taylor revealed himself master of deceptively quiet stories that, in approaching stillness, burst into subtle and radiant meanings. Here, though, his control of tone is weaker; lines trying for the casual (—Charlene had the biggest tits in school—) are merely out of character in stories that depend on a perfect surface and impeccably delicate touch (—I imagine the night. The night is just outside the living-room window—). Some stories—many as short as a page, even a paragraph—return again to Des Moines, where Taylor’s narrator lived before going to Europe after college; others take up details of apartment-building life in provincial France. The former are very slight, like leftovers missing the depth of mood that’s essential for Taylor’s kind of minimalism. —The O—Connell Sisters— prove their crabby nature by keeping the balls and frisbees that land on their lawn—and while the reader waits for resonance, it never comes. Bits about early loves flirt with a more subtle density but are offset by surface-only stories like —Blacky’s Story——anecdotes about a childhood dog. Among the best are the very shortest, like —Musette Disappears——little more, but perfectly so, than a haunting memory-image from childhood. Curiously, Taylor’s potentially greater strength emerges not in this direction but in the deadpan humor of some of his French pieces. The tales about eccentric neighbors remain, again, mainly anecdotal, seldom rising beyond character sketches. But the longish closing piece, —The Driver’s License,— though it still doesn—t deepen in character or mood, offers a poker-faced telling of the byzantine anomalies and Catch-22’s of obtaining a driver’s license in the land of the very curious Gauls that will, indeed, make you laugh. In all, a holding pattern for a talented author waiting for a subject.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1998
ISBN: 1-885266-53-7
Page count: 130pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 1998




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