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Pilgrims Kindle Edition
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Having said that, not all of the stories spoke to me. Some I found made no impression on me at all (Elk Talk, Alice to the East, Come and Fetch These Stupid Kids). Others I found too bizarre to enjoy (The Names of Flowers and Girls, The Famous Torn and Restored Lit Cigarette Trick, The Finest Wife, Bird Shot). And then there were a few I absolutely loved (Landing, Pilgrims, The Many Things Denny Brown Did Not Know (Age Fifteen), At The Bronx Terminal Vegetable Market).
But I think this is inevitable in a book of short stories, and I wonder whether that is the beauty of such a collection - There will be something in there for everyone, and different stories will mean different things to you at different times in your life. As such, it is a little box of treasures.
Occasionally I have to admit I think that Gilbert set up a dramatic and unusual situation then walked away from it too soon. The story of Jimmy the vegetable hauler from Brooklyn who decides to challenge his Italian union leader seemed to be building to a big climax but then fizzled out into inconclusive misery; the pathology of the Hungarian who murdered two men and then became obsessed with his neighbours (and the reason they took his pet rabbit) could have been explained more clearly; the psychology of Ellen the bar-tender who decides to bed her nephew could have been explored with more sensitivity and in more detail - particularly if said nephew was a blood-relative! At their weakest, the stories either meander (like the one about the bird shoot) or veer towards sentimentality (like the final and weakest story, in which an elderly female school-bus driver finds herself on a celestial journey with all the men from her life). But there is some beautiful, very distinctive and original writing here, and a keen observing eye.
I'm going to be interested to read Gilbert's second novel now and to see if she carried the potential from this volume (missing rather from 'Stern Men' and her memoirs) over to that.
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