LUST And Other Stories by Susan Minot

LUST And Other Stories

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As if Monkeys (1986) drained dry the reserves of her inspiration and the barrel hasn't had time to be replenished, Minor offers here a thin and mannered volume in search of the content to fill it. With minor variations, the same story is retold in the 12 pieces here: wanly passive (and often troubled) female is exploited by callous (often power-hungry) male. The title story--a collage of short takes about the damages of indulging in fashionable decadence at a prep school--is perhaps the most successful treatment of the theme and without doubt the closest to something that gets below the surface. Other pieces tend to blur together in a series of often classroom-like exercises that remain thin and uncharactered for all their effort. A girl (nervous breakdown in her past) is snubbed, then courted, at a dinner party ("Sparks"); in a piece as if cloned from Willa Cather, a prim, aging out-of-towner is seduced by a city slicker ("City Night"); the tropes of Hemingway's "The End of Something"--ambitious boy breaks off with clinging girl--are echoed sometimes jarringly in "The Swan in the Garden" (" 'But do you have some vision of the future?' Evelyn said. 'Ev, I'm twenty-seven. Give me a break' "); in "The Feather in the Toque," a current lover at a beach house finds a telltale relic left by her predecessor; and in the diminutive Katherine Mansfield study, "Lunch with Harry," a man betrays a woman when he calls her by an earlier lover's name. Later stories, straining to draw significance from the impasses of lovers who simply lack dramatic or narrative depth, fall prey to hackneyed shortcuts: sometimes banal ("Something rose up between them and bound them there. . .They stared into each others' eyes, fascinated by what they saw there"--"The Knot"); sometimes romance-formulaic ("She did not know Charles Howe well. . .It was not until her recent success off-Broadway that he'd swooped down on her from that lofty place where deals were made and plays produced"--"Ile Seche"). The striking detail surfaces here on occasion, but the material's inertness results as often in standardisms ("A cab appeared out of nowhere and screeched to a halt") or plain missteps ("The faucet screeched through the pipes"; "Frank drove me home one night. We sat in the front seat of his car") that stand out awkwardly in such very short forms. Disappointing work, in the spare mode, that's too often jejune or unformed.

ISBN: 395-48888-5
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
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