Feature

Also of interest...in new short fiction

Gryphon by Charles Baxter; Binocular Vision by Edith Pearlman; Night Soul by Joseph McElroy; The Empty Family by Colm Tóibín

Gryphonby Charles Baxter (Pantheon, $28)Charles Baxter sets his short stories in suburban Minnesota or Michigan, places that “lend themselves to a certain stoic passivity,” said Sam Sacks in The Wall Street Journal. He has “great talent” for staging slow reveals of the “substratum of disorder and rage” that lurks beneath the surfaces of such communities. But he also has one “maddening” tendency”: He often ends stories with “overtaxed metaphors” instead of “meaningful action.”

Binocular Vision by Edith Pearlman (Lookout, $19)Edith Pearlman is a “keen observer of the human condition,” said David L. Ulin in the Los Angeles Times. The 34 stories collected here display an “acute command of language” and “ring with the truth of revelation.”  A sampling: Describing a dying man’s thoughts about his wife and family, Pearlman writes, “How lucky he had been in her, and in their children, and in his work—and yet how willingly he would trade the pleasures of this particular life for life itself.”

Night Soulby Joseph McElroy (Dalkey Archive, $15)“It’s best to read Joseph McElroy’s Night Soul slowly, warily even,” said James Gibbons in Bookforum. Each of these subtly brilliant, “urban to the core” stories hits a reader with “an unexpected swerve, a surprising shift of gears, or a disclosure of inconspicuous import.” Like his “monumental” novels Lookout Cartridge and Women and Men, McElroy’s short fiction “imparts a sense” of life as a process of “wading through a mysterious, ever-changing current.”

The Empty Familyby Colm Tóibín (Scribner, $24)Many of the characters in Colm Tóibín’s collection are “middle-aged Irishmen who have left home with no desire to return again,” said Heller McAlpin in NPR.org. They’re a “lonely lot” who find meaning in life’s “small connections,” and seem to prefer it that way. Tóibín’s “elegiac and elegant” prose calls to mind Henry James, who was Tóibín’s protagonist in the novel The Master, and who reappears here in the “masterfully multilayered story ‘Silence.’”

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