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In his preface to this collection of 12 stories, some new and some familiar, Doctorow explains that while a novel begins with an image, a story begins with a situation. The situations here are diverse, with settings both urban and suburban, contemporary and historical, but the organizing principle is neither time nor space. Because each story has its "own particular light," explains Doctorow, he has "banded the stories in packets of similar mental light." Thus, the opening story, "Wakefield," about a man who spends several months hiding out on his own property for no apparent reason, is followed by another tale of suburban uneasiness, "Edgemont Drive." In "Assimilation," a busboy gets hooked into marrying the boss's late uncle's daughter from the home country, while "Liner Notes: The Songs of Billy Bathgate" shows the struggle to assimilate in an earlier era. Coming next, "Heist" and "Walter John Harmon" deal with issues of corrupted faith. As one would expect, each situation is captured perfectly in smooth and literate language, and Doctorow gets off some wonderful zingers: "The paperback's world is.dependable in its punishments," muses a defeated priest. "More than I can say for Yours." VERDICT A wonderful compendium, even for those who have read Doctorow exhaustively, because the organization is so illuminating. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 10/1/10.]-Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.
Virtuoso Doctorow is revered for his grandly dimensional novels, but he is also a superlative and transfixing short story writer. The incandescent new stories and forever stunning vintage tales some from Lives of the Poets (1984), others from Sweet Land Stories (2004) that Doctorow selected for this powerhouse collection portray psychological outliers on the edge of either liberation or an abyss. Doctorow is rightfully treasured for his social acuity and fluency in urban life, but he is also a penetrating observer of nature and our concealed primal selves. Our hunter's instinct and the symbiotic dance between predator and prey underlies Wakefield, in which a married lawyer and father of twins suddenly turns feral, living on the prowl in the wild behind his Victorian home, and also Assimilation, a ravishing tale of mobsters, brothers, and a green-card marriage. Elsewhere we meet a vulnerable young teacher in a dying town and a big-city runner who escapes into visions of the wilds of Mongolia. Like iron trellises wreathed with flowering vines, Doctorow's complex and masterful tales of the strangeness, pain, and beauty of life are wise and resplendent. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: A landmark collection from a preeminent and popular writer who elevates the best-seller lists with each new book.--Seaman, Donna Copyright 2010 Booklist