February 26, 2005
Recent reads

It's almost trite at this point to refer to Alice Munro as the "best short story writer alive" (comparisons to Chekhov are also popular). I'm in no position to dispute or assert this claim, not being a huge short story reader, but I can tell you that her lastest collection, Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage, is excellent. Munro has a preternatural ability to capture character in a line or paragraph. Highly readable; highly recommended.

The Untouchable, by John Banville: similar in structure to The Book of Evidence (noted here), this is a man looking back at his regrettable life, sometimes with insight, sometimes with obliviousness. Can't say enough good things about the Banville I've read so far; it's nice finding an author with a body of work to go through. Can't do a review post without a quote, so:

What is it, I ask myself, what is that everyone knows, that I do not know?

This morning early, before some busybody should come and move him on, I went down to have a look at that wretch on the steps. He was awake, reclining in his filthy cocoon, his frightful eyes fixed on horrors in the air that only he could see. Indeterminate age, cropped grey hair, scabs all over, mouth blackly agape. I spoke to him but he did not respond; I think he could not hear me. I cast about for something I might do to help him, but soon gave up, in the glum, hopeless way that one does. I was about to turn away when I saw something stir under his chin, inside the collar of his buttoned-up overcoat. It was a little dog, a pup, I think, mangy brown, with big sad eager eyes and a torn ear. It licked its lips at me and squirmed ingratiatingly. Its tongue was shocking in its stark, pink cleanness. A man and his dog. Good God. Everyone must have something to love, some little scrap of life. I went back up the steps, ashamed to have to acknowledge that I felt more sorrow for the dog than I did for the man. What a thing it is, the human heart.

Posted by Bill Stilwell at February 26, 2005 11:44 AM

beautiful. the part about feeling sadder for the dog than the man - moving, and very familiar.

Posted by: Eclipse on February 28, 2005 12:16 AM
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