SWANS ON AN AUTUMN RIVER by Sylvia Townsend Warner


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For many years Sylvia Townsend Warner has been refining her technique in 'the shorter form of which the title story is an exemplar: a corpulent, elderly Englishman, attending a convention in Dublin, is briefly exposed to beauty when he observes some swans drifting downriver, and in attempting to extend the experience, is savaged by seagulls. The story is perfectly proportioned and it is written with a finesse which seems more effortless than it could ever possibly have been. But it also is attenuated and the dramatic value is limited to the terminal moment of the recognition, confrontation or surprise. This is true of several of the stories here, almost all of which have appeared in The New Yorker which to many people is synonymous with the kind of understatement Miss Warner practices. One or two are, frankly, inconsequential. But among those that achieve a stronger quality, there are the son and daughter who share Their Quiet Lives with a succubus mother; the woman who always liked to be A Jump Ahead but finds the wistful notion of growing old curtailed by a doctor's diagnosis; and the dull couple, a disabled major and his devoted spinster sister, in The Love Match, a story with a whipsaw finale which created quite a stir when it appeared.' This is the author's first collection since 1962 and she has a predicated, dedicated following.

Publisher: Viking