The final collection from one of the masters of the short story, several of which were completed in the last months of his life. Here Brodkey displays all his remarkable gifts, and in returning to themes he has treated in the past, he brings to them a new refinement and compression.The final collection from one of the masters of the short story, several of which were completed in the last months of his life. Here Brodkey displays all his remarkable gifts, and in returning to themes he has treated in the past, he brings to them a new refinement and compression.Read Less
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Publishers Weekly, 1997-08-04 When Brodkey died last year, he was not only near the height of his powers as a writer of short stories (always his strong suit), he was also, still, at the forefront of the genre and a grand master of psychological realism. Unfortunately, not all these stories seem finished. "A Guest in the Universe," his reminiscence-à-clef of a 1950s literary brunch, falls apart at the end. So does "Dumbness Is Everything," a 17-page description of a bout of drunken lovemaking?and yet either of these stories cram as much credible wisdom (the first historical, the second sexual) into a single page than many good novelists manage to squeeze between two covers. Like most of the rest of the volume, these stories chronicle the troubled, charmed life of Brodkey's alter-ego Wiley Silenowicz; several return to childhood scenes treated in earlier works. That comes as no surprise. Brodkey aims for a fractal effect: each sentence merely deepens what we already know about his hopelessly interrelated obsessions?grownups and children (family), grownups and grownups (sex) and American speech ("Americanola"). Brodkey's legendary self-absorption is ever-present: "I had been ordained as a poet by some critics although I wrote prose," he writes in "A Guest." "[T]he term meant that I was a Jew and used adjectives and was a smart-ass and it also meant that I was politically unidentifiable. It didn't mean that I was a poet except with some critics, and by poet they meant eccentric and competent?no more than that." Perhaps, but readers of poetry will recognize in this last collection a self-consciousness?a continual, hesitant struggle to capture acts of noticing, remembering, speaking?that we have come to expect from the best poets. Whether Brodkey would want the praise or not, it belongs to him. (Oct.)
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