WINTER'S TALES by Robin Baird-Smith


New Series VI
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This sixth annual anthology from England, like its predecessors, is mostly a refreshing departure from the familiar litany of names in similar American efforts. The 15 stories here emphasize English and Commonwealth writers, both established and emerging, but also include a Spaniard, an Argentinian, and Joyce Carol Oates. Of the better-known writers, Francis King ("A Lost Opportunity") offers a delicate portrait of an Englishman in Japan teaching conversation classes; David Plante ("Matante Cora") writes convincingly of a boy's evolving relationship with his aunt, who on her deathbed is finally pronounced a nun; Oates's story ("The Hair") is a touching (and typically dark-textured) study of the friendship between two couples; Laura Kalpakian's ("Right-Hand Man") is a present-tense slice-of-life delivered in a convincing colloquial voice. Meanwhile, efforts from emerging writers include Patrick Roscoe (recent winner of Canada's CBC Literary Award) in "My Lover's Touch," which dramatizes a young man's descent into a world of homosexual prostitution, drug addiction, and an agonizing search for sadomasochistic encounters (which he mistakes for love); while Whitbread Prize-winner Paul Sayer's "The Interrogator's Divorce" is a deftly managed account of an interrogator, in the fictional country of Judpara, that juxtaposes a conventional instance of divorce with efforts to thwart subversives in a liberal police-state; and Clare Colvin's supernatural "Something to Reflect Upon," about a woman who leaves her husband for the solace of a temporarily vacant apartment, ends with a chilling visitation that accents the narrator's emotional estrangement. In all, a worthy addition to the series, and an interesting contrast to the American scene.

Pub Date: Jan. 2nd, 1990
ISBN: 312-05299-5
Publisher: St. Martin's
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