Elizabeth Crane's prose is smart yet straightforward, funny yet meaningful. In When the Messenger Is Hot, she experiments with form and point of viewElizabeth Crane's prose is smart yet straightforward, funny yet meaningful. In When the Messenger Is Hot, she experiments with form and point of view while creating memorable characters and scenarios.
There are lots of stories in this book, so I'll just highlight a couple of my favorites. The opener, "The Archetypes Girlfriend," is more of an extended description than a traditional story. Is there such thing as a stereotypical idiosyncrasy? Yes: Crane manages to display tons of them as she hilariously examines several personas of women who get under the skin of vulnerable men. Another standout is "Christina," in which the narrator encounters a dancing ghost baby in her home who she chats with on a day to day basis.
The main thing that makes this book short of spectacular is its repetitious themes. Which isn't automatically bad...it's just that she exhausts them through the stories. The death of a mother, dating debacles, and the habitat comparison of Chicago vs. New York became predictable. The stories could have been presented freshly without incorporating these same ideas over and over again. It made the stories feel overly autobiographical--like the writer was having a difficult time detaching herself from every character she created. ...more
You don't have to be an expert on Matisse or of art theory to understand and appreciate this rich collection of three stories by A.S. Byatt. In each sYou don't have to be an expert on Matisse or of art theory to understand and appreciate this rich collection of three stories by A.S. Byatt. In each story, Byatt frames a scenario with a Matisse painting in such a way that the story is not about the painting itself, but of the characters and they way life is reflected as if looking through a piece of art. The prose is lush in color and texture. Although art and art history are sprinkled throughout, these subjects aren't forced in a dry way and fall naturally into the plot.
The most interesting approach in each story deals with the characters' views of art--whether they be pretentious, curious, critical, objective, or narrow (and how those views can affect others). In the first, "Medusa's Ankles," an elderly woman sits at her hairstylist as the world flashes before her at an increasingly uncomfortable pace and she tries to grasp fragments of her youth--the art is tied in by the paintings on the salon wall. The second, "Art Work," deals with a household of artists at different levels (this one requires patience to begin with, but once pieces start to fall together it's more gripping). The third, "Chinese Lobster," presents two points of view of a sexual harassment scenario within a university art department. ...more
I like Parker's very consistent way of making characters comically unsympathetic or naive. And then there are characters who you just plain feel sorryI like Parker's very consistent way of making characters comically unsympathetic or naive. And then there are characters who you just plain feel sorry for. I didn't really get emotionally in tune with any of these stories, though. ...more
I thought I would love this book, but it ended up being so inaccessible. I can see how it would really speak to someone who has studied the intricacieI thought I would love this book, but it ended up being so inaccessible. I can see how it would really speak to someone who has studied the intricacies of the historical or literary subjects Borges covers, but I just couldn’t wrap my head around it. Maybe I didn't try hard enough. ...more