Sunday, June 23, 2013
A writer I first read mention of in an interview with Steven Heighton, (here), James Salter's second short fiction collection - and first since Dusk, in 1988 - packs 10 stories into 132 pages and each one has an electric charge. The last of them, the title story, is a true show-stopper about a couple that makes a suicide pact with a shocking outcome. It was Salter's compression that I'd read the highest praise of, and a lot of stories are heavy on short-burst dialogue, sentences that rarely go over one line but fall exactly the right way, advancing the action and revealing character without a single extraneous word. The subject matter varies, but the group largely focuses on love and sex and the stories often read like a revealing conversation, the exact moment in which the entire world before and after this particular exchange sharpens into focus. My favourite might have been "Palm Court," a simple but crushing tale of old lovers meeting up later in life, and "Platinum" has as its defining action the borrowing of a man's wife's earrings by his mistress. These are two standouts, but each story stays with you as a kind of haze, one that you know you'll only clarify through re-reading. Though this would normally bother me, Salter's so good that you re-read because you know things can't be as simple as he makes them seem. Masterfully subtle stories from a big writer with a very low profile. More of his work will be on my list.
Thursday, June 6, 2013
An entertaining novella that, because of the title and the depressed looking teenage boy in hockey gear on the cover, I was worried was YA when I took it out of the library. (Then again, I shouldn't be such a snob.) But diving into this book, there's a lot going on that's plenty adult: a man whose marriage is all but over gets called in to coach his son's hockey team - a sport you might have guessed he knows nothing about - and uncovers the secret sexual abuse that culminated in the last coach's murder. It's a book full of intrigue and sudden plot twists, and as a French speaker I can only pick out a couple of spots where something might have been lost in translation. (Shame on me, I should've read it in the original.) It's easily read in one sitting and there's a real surprise at the end - there wasn't exactly a resolution, and the characters seemed a little blasé about it all, but overall it was a decent read and good introduction to a prolific, Governor-General's Award-nominated Quebec author.