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Exquisite Epiphanies That Drag You into the Stories,
This review is from: Nine Stories (Mass Market Paperback)
And the word of the LORD came to me, saying, "Son of man, pose a riddle, and speak a parable to the house of Israel, and say, 'Thus says the Lord GOD:
"A great eagle with large wings and long pinions,
Full of feathers of various colors,
Came to Lebanon
And took from the cedar the highest branch.
He cropped off its topmost young twig
And carried it to a land of trade;
He set it in a city of merchants.
Then he took some of the seed of the land
And planted it in a fertile field;
He placed it by abundant waters
And set it like a willow tree.
And it grew and became a spreading vine of low stature;
Its branches turned toward him,
But its roots were under it.
So it became a vine,
Brought forth branches,
And put forth shoots.
But there was another great eagle with large wings and many feathers;
And behold, this vine bent its roots toward him,
And stretched its branches toward him,
From the garden terrace where it had been planted,
That he might water it.
It was planted in good soil by many waters,
To bring forth branches, bear fruit,
And become a majestic vine."' -- Ezekiel 17:1-8 (NKJV)
If you read only one book of short stories this year, make it this one.
I had not read these stories in over 40 years, and I decided it was time to revisit them.
Reading each story reminded me of my first trip on a glass-bottom boat. While such a boat is moving, you don't see much below you. Then, the captain stops over a coral reef teeming with life, and a hidden world reveals itself in startling clarity. Your perspective shifts from above water to below the water . . . and stays there. Afterward, even when just traveling over water, you continue to "see" that hidden, submerged world.
The brilliance of these nine stories comes in one brief epiphany per story where you move from being outside the story to being in the story . . . and having your sense of what happened in the story permanently changed. It's well beyond the O. Henry ironic twist.
The writing that goes into just a sentence or a brief paragraph to create that transformation is stunning. Who knew that words could convey so much meaning?
Most fiction writing today is pretty slapdash by comparison. The richness of each story made me feel as though I had just enjoyed a gourmet feast . . . without feeling over full.
Salinger's understanding of children, how they communicate, and how they respond are remarkable.
For a deeper appreciation for the personal sources for these stories, I suggest you read Kenneth Slawenski's new biography of J.D. Salinger. Read the stories first. You may not agree with biographer's views about each story.