Well, I guess 'American' and 'masculine' (not capitalized) is pretty much the one strong thing I can say about this short-story collection: literary t...moreWell, I guess 'American' and 'masculine' (not capitalized) is pretty much the one strong thing I can say about this short-story collection: literary to a fault, meaning that it reads like a Richard Ford or Raymond Carver or even Sam Shepard (saving the differences) parody, and so self-congratulatory that if the author had been standing next to me while I read I'd have slapped him! Another problem beyond the mediocre writing is that the voice never truly sounds 'masculine'--this is, in my estimation, just a diffident nerd hiding behind big words.(less)
Quite typical of 'lit mag' writing of the current times (y-know--all those MFAs!!) & abounding with its cliches (and yep, this kind of writing boa...moreQuite typical of 'lit mag' writing of the current times (y-know--all those MFAs!!) & abounding with its cliches (and yep, this kind of writing boasts as many and as irritating a cliche as any other) plus its self-indulgent upper-eclons narcissism, this loosely-connected short-story collection is never really cohesive enough to add up to a novel or powerful enough to remain a short story collection. Still, the writing can be attractive at times and a less-frothy, less commercial look at angst-ridden, romance-obsessed 20somethings that is NOT part of chick lit has merits of its own(less)
I've just gotten 5 big boxes of books from the old house and it's thrilling to discover so many of the ones I loved reading then--but Flower Children...moreI've just gotten 5 big boxes of books from the old house and it's thrilling to discover so many of the ones I loved reading then--but Flower Children just isn't one of them. I remember I received it as a pre pub from friends in publishing, and I'd tried to feel the writing without impact from the hype around it, but it was near impossible. Maxine Swann is actually a pretty good writer and her other book, Serious Girls, struck me as better than this one, but overall the problem here is that to me she's not a) as good a writer as she believes herself and is hyped up to be and b) maybe because the expectation is higher than the talent, a lot of the writing goes flat. The idea behind the writing--kids brought up by narcissistic, blind hippie parents--is actually far more interesting that anything OF interest that her writing has to say on the subject, and that's where the entire enterprise seems doomed.
I always had--and still have--the feeling that reviewers find Swann's background and life story (plus the fact that she's pretty and photographs well) so fascinating that they either overlook a sort of basic mediocrity or simply take less for more from it. On her mother's side, Maxine Swann comes from a certain kind of 'high' NY family residing like people in an Edith Whartom novel (they probably did, way back then, anyway) but her mother, typically baby boomer, rebelled and ran off to be a hippie, with enough obsession to continue hippiedom even after it's sell-by date. This is the context fot Swann's childhood, later on even more individualized by fancy prep schools and fancy ivy league colleges, plus years in Paris, married to an Argentine and now even an expat in Buenos Aires. It all makes for wonderful copy--how disappointing, then, that at times this is all it is, really: smart copy.(less)
Sometimes short stories really do beat novels: they can take you deeper, or fling you wider beyond, or push you past certain boundaries. This is what...moreSometimes short stories really do beat novels: they can take you deeper, or fling you wider beyond, or push you past certain boundaries. This is what I felt after I'd finished Pia Z. Ehrhardt's slim, tight, gorgeously clear collection of stories--many which I'd read before, albeit not with the same concentration, in lit mags and web journals. Contemporary short stories, where the voice often counts for more than the narrative, can be unsatisfactory, at times pretentious, other times superfluous. Not so with 'Famous Fathers' where the voice recalls a more melancholic Antonya Nelson or a less sardonic Maile Meloy: the tone here can vary from quiet desperation to quiet tragedy to quiet emotional damage--whichever it is, 'quiet' certainly defines the tone, which in my view only serves to heighten the pathos and raise the contemporary stakes.
I'm disappointed to not find more from this author, and await eagerly for a novel. (less)