REAL ILLUSIONS: Stories by Russell Haley


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Some stories by New Zealand writer Haley have appeared in various New Directions annuals, piquing interest with their loose-jointed technique and their surrealistic pathos about families. But this first full US collection is largely disappointing. In an afterword, Haley announces that the pieces attempt ""to dig deeper into the migrant's awareness of place, time, and family."" And all the stories do offer migrant-life situations: living where one's family doesn't; the dislocations of return and reunion. Unfortunately, however, Haley's treatment of this material often depends heavily on imagistic gimmicks: in ""The Polish Village,"" for instance, a son visits his elderly parents in England, finding that his old father is now speaking only Polish. His prose, too, gets wound up in convoluted metaphors for family history: ""There's bound to be internecine war and sullen silences. Mother with her grey hackles raised snapping at John Wallis, who's been reluctantly co-opted as an ancestor for claiming he invented the lemniscate, the tipped-over figure of eight which has us all looping the loop, lying at infinity."" So, pretentiously elaborate yet crabbed, Haley's stories suffer from being grouped together--while his strongest effort, ""Occam's Electric Razor,"" is best read in a vacuum, where its striking eccentricity can shine.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1985
Publisher: New Directions