'The Horned Man' is laced with references to Kafka, and indeed heavily inspired by the works of that esteemed literary legend. That's not a bad thing.'The Horned Man' is laced with references to Kafka, and indeed heavily inspired by the works of that esteemed literary legend. That's not a bad thing. But if you're familiar with Kafka, you probably see what's coming from a mile away. No matter - the story will likely hook you all the same. Lasdun crafts the story with such tension, it would be hard to put this book down and fail to pick it back up again - unless you're the type of reader who prefers plots to be neatly wrapped up at the end. As a fan of literature that makes you think about the story and the characters long after you've read the last page, I loved the ambiguity.
Lasdun writes in a relatively spare style that is peppered with stunning description and analogies. "And then, delaying it until the last possible moment, she would let me lead her to the low-vaulted, thick-doored opening of the plane, pausing before it, as one might before the charged darkness of a sacrificial chapel, glimpsing through the divide of the curtain, the immense, green-lit zodiac of the pilot's console; the whole vehicle humming as if possessed by diabolic forces."
As with most of the things I like, 'The Horned Man' is not everyone's cup of tea, but I thoroughly enjoyed it and will look for more of Lasdun's work....more
Upon reading the last page in the title story, ‘Runaway’, which opens the book, I was so hooked that I tore through the remaining stories in record tiUpon reading the last page in the title story, ‘Runaway’, which opens the book, I was so hooked that I tore through the remaining stories in record time.
Like most short story collections, ‘Runaway’ is difficult to summarize. You could say it’s about love in its many forms and how complicated our relationships can be – not just with romantic partners but with parents, children and friends.
Munro is truly a master at her craft, and what not only tugged at me while reading but kept her stories on my mind long after putting the book down was a combination of two particular skills. Characters are fleshed out in such juicy, believable detail (which can be difficult to accomplish in just a few dozen pages!) that you feel an emotional connection to them very quickly. And then – when Munro hits you with the inevitable consequences to that character’s choices – you’re gutted. You can’t stop thinking about the character, analyzing what happened to her and wondering what came next. At least, that’s how it went for me after every single story.
Some short story authors write with such ambiguity that you’re not even exactly sure what happened; you’re asked to unravel a mystery yourself based on insufficient evidence and often left bewildered. Munro, on the other hand, takes you by the hand through a character’s life as she is confronted with challenges that may be banal or extraordinary – whether facing estrangement with her only child, or going on an unexpected and bizarre outing with a man she just met and narrowly escaping with her life. The consequences aren’t always dramatic. They can be subtle and vague, shrouded in the kind of mystery that similarly envelops us all as we make one seemingly small choice that pitches us head-first into a whole new path in life – and we, like the characters in the story, will never know how things might have been otherwise.
Though categorized as ‘literary fiction’, Munro’s work avoids flowery self-indulgent prose or overt attempts at a ‘unique voice’. It’s as if she’s expertly painting the scene around you as you follow the character; you’re so absorbed in the action that you don’t need a three-paragraph description to give you a lucid sense of a tiny coastal town near Vancouver or an aging mental institution in Michigan. You get the picture anyway. Perhaps that’s why Munro only writes short stories; she manages to be both vivid and succinct.
Munro is far more famous in her native Canada than here in the States, and that’s a shame – not only because she deserves the recognition, but because American readers are missing out. After reading ‘Runaway’ I’m adding several more of Munro’s works to my queue....more