- Paperback: 359 pages
- Publisher: Counterpoint LLC; Reprint edition (July 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1582434832
- ISBN-13: 978-1582434834
- Product Dimensions: 13 x 2.8 x 19.8 cm
- Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (1 customer review)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,910,393 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Lost in Uttar Pradesh: New and Selected Stories Paperback – 1 Jul 2009
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Top Customer Reviews
Some stories are unique, like the first one, with the mountain lion in Colorado walking its "lunch," a cow up the hill, with the scenario observed by a woman alone in a cabin, who is thereby coming to terms with a less photogenic aspect of "nature." Other stories are interwoven, either in regards to time, or varying character perspectives. In the former category, in "Arcturus", Connell depicts Muhlbach, and a dinner with his dying wife, her ex-husband, their two children, and the arrival of some duck hunters. In the wonderfully titled "St. Augustine's pigeon," Muhlbach's wife has died, and he decides on a "night on the town" in Manhattan, having been "out of the scene" for 20 years or so. Three stories involve Proctor Bemis, a retired stockbroker, and CEO, who has a comfortable routine at the country club.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta) (May include reviews from Early Reviewer Rewards Program)
A wonderful diversity and range of material.
I was also attracted by the title, expecting something Indian. There is some, but not that much.
Some of the stories have repeat protagonists.
One of these is William Koerner, a youngish man of shifting definition and location. He has an old but globetrotting uncle. Koerner is used as an observation base for watching some odd people, like the gay bashing rich man who keeps inviting gays to his parties.
Another is a man on loan from Thomas Mann's Unordnung und frühes Leid, called Muhlbach. (Connell confesses this loan thing in a foreword.) The man has 2 little kids and his wife is dying; later she is dead and he has problems with the gap. That may sound somber, but these stories are far from trist.
Another one: Bemis, a retired broker in Kansas, starts outing himself as a liberal, away from the customary conservative stance of his place in society. His wife is scandalized.
Or a group of pals from school days: one of them has become something like a global vagabond to the puzzlement of those who stayed home in their small mid Western town. (These I see among the weaker stories; too stereotypical.)
And some solitairs: such as a pregnant woman, alone in a house on a mountainside in Colorado, who watches with horror how a lion stalks a pregnant cow, driving her uphill. Or Tessie, the bible literalist who works for a family of intellectuals. Or Bowen, the promising novelist who doesn't make it beyond his first successful novel. For a while he tries to run an SF based literary magazine, an outrageously lunatic project.
Connell is an expert at voicing the 'people', the religious and conservative attitudes and opinions of middle America, and at creating eccentric characters.
As much as I like the story collection, despite some unevenness, which probably is par for the course, I have issues with the edition. What disturbs me a bit about the kindle version is the lack of publishing information about the stories. It seems that the pocket book edition has the same flaw. That's what I gather from a newspaper review that I found in google.
Obviously some stories are new and others are taken from older publications. One would wish to be told from where and when.
Obviously I am unable to judge if the selection of old stories for this volume makes sense. There might be others, better suited. I don't know.
I wish I could split my rating. I would give 5 stars without hesitation to the stories and not more than 3 stars to the edition.
Some stories are unique, like the first one, with the mountain lion in Colorado walking its "lunch," a cow up the hill, with the scenario observed by a woman alone in a cabin, who is thereby coming to terms with a less photogenic aspect of "nature." Other stories are interwoven, either in regards to time, or varying character perspectives. In the former category, in "Arcturus", Connell depicts Muhlbach, and a dinner with his dying wife, her ex-husband, their two children, and the arrival of some duck hunters. In the wonderfully titled "St. Augustine's pigeon," Muhlbach's wife has died, and he decides on a "night on the town" in Manhattan, having been "out of the scene" for 20 years or so. Three stories involve Proctor Bemis, a retired stockbroker, and CEO, who has a comfortable routine at the country club. In old age though, he seems to be developing some sort of liberal conscious, and is appalled that the United States had a plan to kill five million Japanese with poison gas during World War II. He is equally appalled about the discontinuity of trans-generational knowledge; he cannot believe that a Vietnam War veteran would not know who "Vinegar Joe" Stillwell was. The other two stories involve the Bemis' going to a masquerade party involving political figures and the third is told from Mrs. Bemis's point of view, and amounts to a litany of the fears of the rich.
"Puig's Wife" is one of my favorites. There is a very high level of sexual tension throughout the story, as the wife is being oh so provocative, and when an intelligent woman wants to be provocative... Hum. Connell describes Puig's wife, who is an archetype for the provocative, as knowing precisely how much skin she is exposing while appearing to be utterly oblivious to her actions.
Completely different characters and scenarios include a nephew showing his aging uncle, a former Professor, and World War II veteran of the South Pacific, around San Francisco. India makes a cameo appearance in this collection, as the last story, with the same uncle, who spent time there in his youth. Seemed like he was everywhere BUT Uttar Pradesh, and I was going to "ding" the author for that, but the uncle got there in the end. Another few stories involved "JD", the one who traveled the world, for a decade, from his Midwest home, and his relationship with his buddies who never got a passport. Other stand-alone stories that I was not as impressed with were the one on the Cuban missile crisis, and another entitled "Ancient Musick," which seemed to be a literal mixture, and splash between Herodotus and Jackson Pollack.
And on two points I was absolutely stunned in how the author hit pitch perfect resonance with my own experiences. In the story, "Mrs. Proctor Bemis," there is the following: "Ancient history, Mr. Bemis remarked. Vietnam sounds like the Peloponnesian War..." And then in the collections last story, with Uncle Gates in India, he visits the cave paintings at Ajanta, but before that, he is in Iran, the exact same age as I, when confronted with the same option: "Yes, he wanted to visit Persepolis...He had found Persepolis on the map but it would be a tiresome journey. From Teheran south to Isfahan, farther south to Shiraz, northeast to the ruins by some sort of conveyance. He was young, twenty-five or so, and could walk all day without blinking, but he worried about the expense and decided against it. He had been cross with himself ever since."
The worst story is "Assassin," so bad, in terms of the misinformation conveyed, that it could have cost him a star in the rating. He repeats what is now a standard cliché, if not the "received wisdom" that in order to be a true veteran of the Vietnam War, one had to bring back "an ear." And I continue to attribute this false "totem" of the horror of the Vietnam War to Michael Herr's Dispatches.
I know it's some tough math, but the 6-stars for the resonance far outweigh the 1-star "ear" totem, and average out to 5-stars. A truly well-written, erudite performance by Evan Connell.