Saturday, March 27, 2010

Readings: Kinda Sorta Fun

I've been reading Robert Stone's current collection of stories Fun With Problems. As Stone has been one of my favorite writers of literary fiction since I first read his novel A Hall of Mirrors back in that dim corridor of the past known as my youth, I hold him to a very high standard. This collection does not quite make it over the bar. That said, Stone is a master, and the book has its moments. The excerpt below is from the collection's penultimate offering, "High Wire" and features the kind of hard-hitting, truth-dealing prose for which I have kept going back to Stone over the years:

Back home it was cold, and Jennifer grew suspicious and discontent. When she was angry her mild, educated Anglo-southern tones could tighten and faintly echo the speech of her ancestors in the Dust Bowl. Sometimes her vowels would twist themselves into the sorrowful whine of pious stump farmers abandoned by Jesus in the bottomland. You had to listen closely to detect it. I had never heard the word "honey" sound so leaden until Jennifer smacked me in the mouth with it. She could do the same thing with "dear." Dust bowl, I thought, was by then a useful metaphor for our married state.

If you can feel the clout of that, and particularly if you haven't previously read Robert Stone, don't hesitate, based on my lukewarm reaction, to check out this collection. It definitely has its moments.