Legacies

Starling Lawrence, Author
Starling Lawrence, Author Farrar Straus Giroux $22 (0p) ISBN 978-0-374-18474-2
Paperback - 243 pages - 978-0-393-31869-2
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It is always interesting when a publishing figure turns author, and in the case of Norton editor-in-chief Lawrence, it is good to report that a considerable talent is at work. The title of this story collection is appropriate, for many of Lawrence's finely crafted tales are reminiscences, of vital moments in mostly quiet lives. He has a real knack for the telling physical detail, and for the kind of obsessions--sometimes sexual, sometimes memories of childhood betrayals--that can help define a life. The lead story, ""The Crown of Light,"" is a beautifully written piece about an elderly farmer who achieves a mystical apotheosis. ""The Gift"" and ""Reunion"" are both concerned with erotic yearnings that distort apparently normal lives, and ""Desire Lines"" is a haunting tale of birdwatchers in New York's Central Park that moves into decidedly eerie territory. The stories do not so much end as pause on the brink of change or discovery, and in their subtle way they are all the more rewarding for that restraint. They are unfashionable in their observant, old-fashioned attention to atmosphere and setting, but for connoisseurs of elegant style and quiet penetration they should prove highly rewarding. (Apr.)
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