Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The Leaning Tower - Katherine Anne Porter
Porter engages the reader by always focusing on what’s interesting; she has the ability to see deeply and clearly, be it into a personality or an issue; she combines intelligence with honesty; her prose is smooth and engrossing. Quite an array of virtues are on display in this collection. Some of the stories are about former slaves; they should be required reading for those interested in the “race issue.” Her story about Germany in the early thirties is an examination of a society primed to exlode. My favorites? “The Grave” and “The Downward Path to Wisdom.” In “Path” we see, through a child’s eyes, the ugliness and chaos of the life he is heir to. “The Grave” presents a small incident that grows large and ends in an image, a memory, held still and outside time. All these stories are excellent and incisive works of art. *

Everything To Live For - Paul Horgan
The narrator is looking back at something that occurred when he was seventeen. We get an adult’s perspective, not a boy’s. This creates a problem. I didn’t see or experience what a boy would see and experience. Also, the prose is so smooth and unruffled that the true feel of life is missing. All is pristine. There are dangers in something too crafted, too wise; it becomes “precious.” In Things As They Are Horgan also had a man looking back at the boy he was, but he presented events from the boy’s perspective. That made all the difference.

Swimming to Cambodia - Spalding Gray
Originally done by the author as an on-stage monologue, the book retains a conversational tone. It’s engaging, a swift, lively read. Gray is a humorist, though he’s not superficial – this book is about something (of a political nature). But a glaring problem is that he often goes too far with the smuttiness – to the point of being truly disgusting.

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