Stephanie A. Higa's Reviews > You Are Not a Stranger Here

You Are Not a Stranger Here by Adam Haslett
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's review
Jul 21, 12

Read from July 20 to 21, 2012

Collection of extremely depressing stories. Adam Haslett writes well in terms of emotional expression and word choice, but most of these stories lack (1) a compelling plot, (2) compelling characters, and (3) a proper ending. By "proper ending" I don't mean happily ever after, but a resolution drawn naturally from the prior events that distinguish a story from just a nicely-written scene. (Admittedly biased against slice-of-life; it's never been my cup of tea.)

"Notes to My Biographer" and "Devotion" are the best of the lot. I read these two first, back in college. "Notes" in particular is very good: it doesn't have much in the way of plot and cuts off at the end, but features an intense and pretty comic first-person voice.

Haslett ties in knowledge of psychiatry, especially bipolar disorder, and AIDS. His psychiatric stories feel modern, while the AIDS stories ("Devotion" and "Reunion") suggest the secrecy and shame surrounding the disease in the 1980s. I haven't read any other stories about the history of AIDS, so this aspect seemed fresh to me.

Coincidentally, I read this right after reading The Corrections. Haslett studied under Franzen at Swarthmore. There's a resemblance, but only slightly. I'd say Haslett has a long way to go. His writing screams MFA, and he could definitely use some new sources of inspiration.

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