When the austere and moving title story of this collection appeared in The New Yorker in 1993, it inspired two memorable film adaptations, and John Updike selected it for inclusion in The Best American Short Stories of the Century. In these ten stories, Alice Elliott Dark visits the fictional town of Wynnemoor and its residents, present and past, with skill, compassion, and wit. By turns funny, sad, and disturbing, these are stories of remarkable power.
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Alice Elliott Dark's second collection of stories evokes the same reaction one might have to a terribly beautiful, unabashedly smart woman--the reader is left both captivated and unnerved. Dark, of course, has a great many expectations to live up to. There's not only the success of her debut collection, Naked to the Waist, but the numerous bouquets tossed at the title story of In the Gloaming: first John Updike chose it for inclusion in The Best American Short Stories of the Century, and then it was made into a fine (and highly visible) film. Yet she meets the challenge with wide range and descriptive acuity--and, better, with an emotional intensity that unifies the entire collection. Her stories largely concern what is said, and what is unsaid, between lovers, neighbors, and family members. "In the Gloaming," for example, revolves around the valedictory conversations of a mother and her son who is dying of AIDS. In "The Secret Spot," a young wife encounters a woman whom she mistakenly identifies as a rival for her husband's affections, and chats herself into an awful, artful epiphany. The protagonist of "Dreadful Language" is haunted by her dead lover, who seems to pass judgment on the suburban existence she has settled for:
He came to me more and more often and was so himself, so surprising and other, that I had to reason with myself severely on my train rides back to Wynnemoor to remember that I was making him up. Or was I? Has anyone ever known for sure the provenance of either art or apparitions?At times Dark demonstrates an almost Victorian impulse toward melodrama-- almost because she grounds her coincidences in the ordinary mess of modern life. And her mastery of atmosphere will persuade us of almost anything. Witness the spooky and authoritative opening of "Maniacs": "Silent sound, vivid absence, pressure from beyond the quilts and walls, the taste of pennies on the tongue; several miles apart two sisters awoke within moments of each other and instinctively knew it had snowed." Whether you're seeking exquisite prose or raw emotion, you'll find yourself perfectly moved and plainly edified by Dark's capacious talent. --Amy Grace Loyd About the Author:
Alice Elliott Dark is the author of Naked to the Waist and has won numerous awards, including a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship. She lives in Montclair, New Jersey, with her husband and child.
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