THE ART OF THE KNOCK: Stories by Philip Graham


Email this review


The recurring image throughout this collection of surreal stories is thin, lightweight, but modestly engaging: the whimsical idea of knocking (by a novelty salesman, by psychiatric patients, by corpses) as an undervalued essential of human communication. Moreover, even in the stories that don't use the knocking motif, Graham stays close to this theme of fragile human communication, the lack of close connection: a woman who is only able to truly see things through binoculars (""Through Binoculars""); a dating couple, less than genuinely involved (""Shadows""); an old couple keeping each other in the dark by removing light bulbs (""Light Bulbs""). But, while these pieces have a certain springy appeal in their central metaphors, they're undeveloped, somewhat gimmicky, far from compelling. And only two stories here have the stamina and inventiveness to sustain Graham's whimsies: in ""Ancient Music,"" an old man dies but remains a ghostly presence, attending to his wife's grief; and in ""Waiting For The Right Moment,"" a man lives with a woman who makes every object of their shared daily existence into art. (""Almost a daily surprise awaited him in the apartment. Dressing for work one morning, he found his shoes and hers nailed to a parquet board and arranged in a series of dance steps, the laces and straps lacquered and raised in the air, in the pose of arms softly brushing one another. 'Do you like it?' she shouted from the kitchen. 'It's called Light on Their Feet.'"") A mildly promising debut--often too glib in its jokey concepts, but with occasional flights of genuinely interesting fancy.

Pub Date: Jan. 23rd, 1984
Publisher: Morrow