ACQUAINTED WITH THE NIGHT And Other Stories by Lynne Sharon Schwartz


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All of Schwartz's stories are fully professional, and some are more than that: subtly comic, honestly poignant. Yet the wide range of tones on display here underlines the fact that Schwartz, usually so distinctive in her novels, becomes essentially voiceless at this length. Many of the pieces are fleshed-out vignettes: an old woman, desperate to hear her first name spoken aloud by someone else, turns graffiti-artist; a young couple meets and probes for connection on a sailboat; a young white girl and her black male piano teacher face an unbridgeable gap. There are attempts at surreal fabulism: a man's dead wife and dead dog compete as they both send night-haunting sound-messages back to the man; a lonely woman is repopulated by the intrusion of the least likely social elements. But Schwartz seems out of place in these heavily contrived items. Much more suited to her fictional gait: ""The Age of Analysis""--about a family falling apart, with every family member psychiatrically involved, as therapists themselves or patients (inauthentic responses to real pain make for a gruesomely pathetic comedy); and ""Plaisir D'Amour""--in which a widow, becoming used to her aloneness, is turned into a victim of what begins as an innocuous fantasy life. Still, even in these high-grade, largely enjoyable stories, Schwartz is given to dullish sentences that make each story feel overlong, la Joyce Carol Oates. And there's a predictability and flatness to much of Schwartz's short-story work--dutiful, well-crafted fiction without the fireworks often found in her longer narratives.

Pub Date: Aug. 8th, 1984
Publisher: Harper & Row