Top critical review
on 30 November 2014
Adultery is wrong. Even if there is no James M. Cain Old Testament wrath of God - save for the final tale, 'Abyss' - Ford uses his obvious gift to point out the obvious. Having read most of his novels, I was prepared to love this collection of short stories. I found them too alike and predictable in outcomes.
Ford is a very skilled writer in the Updike tradition - he understands Middle Americans and writes with insight snd skill about their lives. But whatever the set up, the outcome is pretty much pre-determined. From the very short - 'Privacy' - to the substantial - 'Abyss' - Ford makes it clear what he thinks. Adultery is driven by illusion - the grass is greener - and those who pursue its momentary pleasures come crashing down to Earth.
This is what literally happens in the longest - and clearly most revealing of the tales told in 'Abyss'. Two Real Estate agents fall in lust, have a drawn out set of trysts which results in a planned excursion to Phoenix where one of them does not rise from the ashes, but falls into the Grand Canyon by 'accident'. Like the rest of this volume, it is a very readable but not terribly surprising tale. The couple are young, attractive, driven and overwhelmed by desire. As they begin their drive to the canyon, they lose their lust, and the woman (Frances) begins to see her lover more clearly for what he is and is not. As the fog lifts, so does her desire, and her shame comes out to play. That it all ends in disaster is very biblical - although she, not the man, pays the ultimate price.
While one appreciates Ford's skills, these tales are difficult to love - with the possible exception of 'Puppy.'