The Third Miss Symons - F. M. Mayor
The story of a Nobody, from birth to death. Etta is a flawed individual who lives an empty life; she won’t achieve the one thing she wants: to love and be loved. But I wasnt’ moved by Etta’s story. This is partly due to the detached, emotionless way Mayor treats her character. This may be a more honest novel than most, in that many lives are lived without others (including the author and reader) caring. The book is short, stark, containing nothing extraneous to the sad procession of years. No descriptions of scenery, no extra words. This is a clinical study, odd and effective, and as such I respect it. But it kept me at a distance.
The White Rose - B. Traven
A political polemic, simplistic and passionate. Traven cared about injustice, and he had insight into how corruption works. But I want fiction with authentic characters and plot, and polemics seldom provide that. This one didn’t, so I stopped reading at the halfway point.
Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? - Joyce Carol Oates
The title story is the best, and there are others that are good to very good. But most (there are seventeen) don’t ultimately succeed. I say “ultimately” because Oates has an ability to engage the reader. Her prose is pleasurable, her characters and situations interesting. The failure is in the final product. Oates relies on the quick instinct; she goes where ideas take her, but often they don’t take her anywhere special. Still, she does well with the obsessive mind, the warped and lost souls, and the ugliness these people see in life.