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Fascination: Storiesby William Boyd
"Boyd effortlessly executes all the sophisticated tricks of conventional style even as he pushes beyond convention, taking liberties with language and proportion." Christina Schwarz, the Atlantic Monthly (read the entire Atlantic Monthly review)
Synopses & Reviews
A new collection of stories by the internationally acclaimed author of Any Human Heart ("the finest storyteller of his generation" — Chicago Tribune).
In "Notebook No. 9," a film director's journal becomes an unintentional record of his obsessive love for his leading lady and the slow destruction of their relationship.
In "Beulah Berlin, an AZ," a performance artist, longing for stability and order, reveals the details of her chaotic life through her comments on such varied subjects as angst, hay fever, photography, baby names, sonnets, and tobacco.
In "Fantasia on a Favorite Waltz," a prostitute finds an unexpected friend in a young man who plays piano in a brothel.
In "Adult Video," we see a man's life in film format — rewinding to his years as a struggling student at Oxford, fast-forwarding to his dreams of success as a writer, and watching the present unfold as he proposes to his future wife for all the wrong reasons.
Exploring the ways a life can be dominated by a need for love and the torments that arise when love is misplaced or denied, these stories confirm William Boyd's reputation as a master of the art.
"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 AZ') 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.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"[P]acked with literary multivitamins....Boyd's writing is sharp, precise and often very funny. In this collection, it is also as diverse in tone, structure and subject matter." San Francisco Chronicle
"With few exceptions these stories are as robust as his novels, and if space prohibits the (sometimes overly) clever plot twists of the novels, Boyd compensates with a staggering variety of narrative techniques that help propel the stories with grace and economy." San Diego Union-Tribune
"These stories are multifaceted little gems, and the thinking about them takes more time (time well spent) than the reading." Library Journal
"Boyd's prose style has the economy and power of a line drawing by Matisse....Forget epiphanies! The insights arrived at in Boyd's stories are experienced rather than merely witnessed. They strike deep, and they stick." Boston Globe
"[A] master storyteller....This rich selection of short stories is beautifully grouped and adroitly executed....William Boyd has produced a masterwork that not only is worthy of our attention, but consistently rewards it." Dallas-Ft. Worth Star Telegram
"Thin stuff overall....One wonders whether most of these were ideas for unwritten novels." Kirkus Reviews
"[T]he overall impression Fascination gives is of a narrative-inventing mind humming hectically away, brimming over with ideas, one of which — the mind/body problem, perhaps? — must almost certainly be the seed of Boyd's next novel." Seattle Times
"Often, I simply can't tell how [Boyd] means these pieces to work....But if he wants them to do what I want a story to do — to please the reader aesthetically, to move him emotionally, to pique her intellectually — they don't work for me." David Gates, The New York Times Book Review
"[T]he author's brainy fizziness is balanced by his novels' heartfelt if witty human and social explorations. What the short stories in Fascination mainly explore, with several exceptions, is style; by the time the fizz settles they may be over." Los Angeles Times
"While a reader may appreciate the playful variety of style, he is likely to be disenchanted by the hollow plots and anticlimaxes. Fascination would make a good creative writing manual." Miami Herald
"Boyd's exploration of new forms adds some resonance to his work but more often feels halfhearted — some lazy college professor's idea of a good writing exercise rather than an author's expansion of fiction's frontiers." Rocky Mountain News
"William Boyd is a British novelist who loves the short story. In fact, the worst thing you can say about Fascination, Boyd's third collection of stories, is that maybe he loves the form too much." Baltimore Sun
"The stories are perfect....Suffused with an understanding of love, desire, and emotional incompetence." M. John Harrison, The Guardian (U.K.)
"Boyd's remarkable, and almost wholly consistent, gift is to convince us of the roundness, the existence of his characters from the very first sentence." Erica Wagner, The Times (London)
"Fascination is a must-read book. Every one of the 16 stories has the patina of craftsmanship....The writing transcends cleverness....An impressively sophisticated offering from a writer whose charms never wane." David Robson, The Sunday Telegraph (U.K.)
"Sly and consistently entertaining....This collection demonstrates Boyd's versatility as well as his virtuosity. He is as much at home writing about nineteenth-century Vienna as he is twentieth century Cape Cod." Sebastian Shakespeare, Literary Review
This new collection of stories by the internationally acclaimed author of Any Human Heart explores the ways a life can be dominated by a need for love and the torments that arise when love is misplaced or denied.
About the Author
William Boyd is the author of eight novels, three collections of short stories, and twelve screenplays that have been filmed. He has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the Whitbread Award for Best First Novel, the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize, the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Fiction. He lives in London and southwest France.
Table of Contents
Adult Video 3
Notebook No. 9 37
A Haunting 50
Beulah Berlin, an AZ 116
The Woman On the Beach With a Dog 134
The View From Yves Hill 151
Visions Fugitives 185
Fantasia On a Favorite Waltz 208
The Ghost of a Bird 219
The Mind/Body Problem 239
The Pigeon 261
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