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An Anthology of Contemporary Short Fiction

edited by Larry Dark

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-670-84578-7
Publisher: Viking

These New Yorkerstyle short stories are filled with middle- class characters, most of whom—in defiance of travel-literature conventions—steadfastly refuse to experience an epiphany. Despite some fine writing, this uniformity kills Dark's (The Literary Lover, not reviewed) project. In William Maxwell's ``The Gardens of Mont-Saint-Michel,'' a couple returns with their daughter and niece to a spot visited 18 years earlier and find, to the husband's dismay, that the place has changed. The couple in Ward Just's ``I'm Worried About You''- -Marshall and Jan—travels through Europe and ends up in Paris, where a male friend lives and where Marshall feels a momentary longing for another kind of life. In the stories dealing with men making it with foreign women, the latter are uniformly empty and uninvolved. In James Salter's ``American Express,'' two American guys, ``lawyers and sons of lawyers,'' visit several Italian cities. One picks up an Italian woman and buys her a fur coat. Allen Barnett's ``Succor'' does a better job with international relations: An HIV-positive man who cares for AIDS patients in his home returns to Rome, where he lived at 19, and dines with his then-lover, who is engaged to be married. Sue Miller's ``Travel'' follows two of the better delineated characters here, former lovers Oley and Rob, who travel to Peru together and discover that things still do not work between them. Lorrie Moore's ``Which Is More Than I Can Say About Some People'' also stands out, because it is one of the few stories with characters who are openly tourists. When Abby can't decide whether or not to stay with her husband, she and her mother travel to Ireland, where they queue up to kiss the Blarney Stone, which phobic Abby finds ``very unhygienic for a public attraction.'' These are exceptions, however, to travelers who are so civilized that they are affected by nothing. So why not just stay home? All the excitement of a trans-Atlantic flight.