PIECES OF LIFE by Mark Schorer


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The late Mark Schorer's last book (aside from the possibility of a posthumous Balanchine biography) is an uneasy mosaic of fiction and autobiography: ten short stories written over the past 30 years interleaved with short, plainspoken but dense remembrances. The effect is strangely like a package of supermarket sliced cheese--bland, soft, thickish slabs separated by thin, tough paper. Schorer intended for ""the characters in the stories to act out their problems before a darker backdrop,"" but the fast-flickers of a Midwest youth and beyond--""horrid tension"" between otherwise appealing parents, friendships (August Derleth and ""Decadence""), a brother, a dog, an uncle, a marriage, and the last words, ""I feel like crying""--do not lend weight to the fiction; they emphasize its artificiality and datedness. The early New Yorker stories especially, with their talkative, self-centered wives attached to hats, high heels, and straying husbands, seem even older than they are--shades of Dorothy Parker. Later the central anxiety couple becomes academic and quieter (less like his parents' marriage, more like his own?), searching for something else or more on trips to Italy, fearing stagnation, settled but restless. These are not bad stories, only a bit too processional or mannered, but they are not good enough to stand up to time or to the strong light of Schorer's final looks back--less than 30 pages altogether but enough from which to extrapolate the pent-up, worried essence of a life.

Pub Date: Oct. 14th, 1977
Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux