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Library Journal Review
Boyd (Any Human Heart) is a writer conversant with enigma, and the 14 stories here (several previously published) present themselves as small puzzles or fables of identity. "The Ghost of a Bird," for example, gives us "Patient 39," whose identity and personality are casualties of war; along the way, who he is-literally-comes out, but he dies before he can retrieve his past, his present, his person. "Adult Video" presents life as if it can be rewound, fast-forwarded, analyzed, examined. "A Haunting," the longest story here, shows a respected architect whose sudden odd compulsions and behaviors, his mind's inability to make himself do as it wants, leave him alien to his own body, out of a fine job and marriage, and arriving at a most unexpected conclusion. These stories are multifaceted little gems, and the thinking about them takes more time (time well spent) than the reading. For any type of library where well-crafted fiction is appreciated.-Robert E. Brown, Minoa Lib., NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly Review
Boyd (Any Human Heart, etc.) is difficult to pigeonhole. The 14 stories in this book include the supernaturally inflected ("A Haunting," "Visions Fugitives"), the Chekhovian bittersweet ("The Woman on the Beach with a Dog"), the PoMo urban spiel ("Beulah Berlin, an A-Z") and the comedy of dogged lechery. The last is represented by "Adult Video," which, in journal form, records the infidelity of one Edward, a cynical graduate student, and "Fascination," in which the same Edward, married to the girlfriend he cheated on, bungles a brief foray as a freelance journalist by making a pass at a young interviewee. "A Haunting" uses an old horror motif (a man is possessed by the spirit of another man) to illuminate the character of architect Alex Rief. While the story begins well, it concludes rather flatly with a pseudoscientific explanation. Dispossession is the more everyday horror that animates "The Ghost of a Bird," in which a Doctor Moran observes the brief recovery and sudden death of a young brain-damaged soldier, Gerald Gault. Gault, who published a short story shortly before being injured in 1944, has, in his brief recovery, confused his life with that story: "what became real to Gerald Gault was a consoling phantom, a dream, an urgent wish." Boyd's characters are, as a general rule, seeking-and mostly failing-to attain the intensity of some similar imaginative act. Agent, Amanda Urban. 3-city author tour. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Prizewinning author Boyd follows up his acclaimed novel Any Human Heart BKL Ja 1 & 15 03 with a collection of 14 short stories, many of which feature artists, musicians, and writers as the central characters. In Notebook No. 9, a film director going through a bad patch in his career reveals his obsession with the leading lady in his recently completed film. Although the director is uncommonly astute in his critical comments on the technical aspects of filmmaking, he seems blind (depressingly so) to much larger issues, such as the fact that the actress has lost all interest in him. Some of these stories are experimental in form, such as Adult Video, in which perennial student Edward Scully, frustrated and self-absorbed, uses the cues of a video recorder (play, fast-forward, pause) to juxtapose his real life with an imagined one. The strongest story in the collection, Incandescence, employs four narrators to tell the story of an ultrawealthy businessman reconnecting with his former flame and her new husband, a charming if oily con man who has drained the family coffers. --Joanne Wilkinson Copyright 2004 Booklist
Kirkus Book Review
Fourteen stories in a third collection from the acclaimed British author (Any Human Heart, 2003, etc.). Most of the tales are about the vanished past, opportunities lost, roads not taken. Several are formally experimental: e.g., a woman filmmaker's efforts (in "Beulah Berlin, an A-Z") to order her chaotic life--in 26 episodic segments, each beginning with a successive letter of the alphabet; and Oxford lecturer and writer Edward Scully's envisioning (in "Adult Video") of his real and imagined lives, structured according to a video-recorder's functions ("Play," "Pause," "Fast-Forward," etc.). Scully also appears in the title story, as the interviewer of a teenaged woman athlete, whose confident vigor politely mocks his own career and personal failures. Too many of these pieces feature artists, writers, and movie people: among them, a European auteur's depressive musings, provoked by unrequited lust for his leading lady ("Notebook No. 9"); an Austrian prostitute's brief encounter with young pianist "Hannes" Brahms ("Fantasia on a Favorite Waltz"); and a septuagenarian author's distillation of his erotic memories into an X-rated filmscript ("The View from Yves Hill," which is rather like a Louis Auchincloss story with sex). "The Woman on the Beach with a Dog" is a tepid imitation of Chekhov's great (similarly titled) story; and "The Ghost of a Bird," which describes a battlefield physician's sympathetic treatment of a grievously wounded soldier (and writer), closely echoes Michael Ondaatje's The English Patient. Boyd offers more substantial fare in a taut disclosure (spoken by four narrators) of a spurned lover's revelatory encounter with his old flame and her affable, sinister husband ("Incandescence"); and in the nicely imagined and detailed (though somewhat scattered) tale of a contemporary engineer's possession by the ghost of a vengeful 19th-century inventor ("The Haunting"). Thin stuff overall, though. One wonders whether most of these were ideas for unwritten novels. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.