The Courts of Love: Stories Tag: Winner of National Book Award

Ellen Gilchrist, Author Little Brown and Company $34 (304p) ISBN 978-0-316-31478-7
The novella that occupies more than half of this satisfying volume displays many of Gilchrist's characteristics: the reappearance of characters encountered in previous works; frequent foreshadowing and flashbacks; a mix of the mundane and the miraculous; and copious literary and scientific references--all employed in the service of an eventful story. ""Nora Jane and Company"" reprises the eponymous character whom we last saw giving birth to twins, in Light Can Be Both Wave and Particle. Here, the twins are now 10; Nora Jane is 29 and happily married to Freddy Harwood. As usual, all the players in a sizable cast of characters are larger than life: they live spontaneously, even recklessly; they have lots of money and spend it freely and frivolously; they are ruled by passionate emotions fueled by brilliant insights and sudden visions. In the course of the novella, Nora Jane, Freddy and the twins' godfather, journalist and film critic Neiman Gluuk, experience a terrorist assassination of one of their friends; enroll at Berkeley for graduate studies; survive an emergency in the California wilderness; and participate in a minor miracle that employs the long arm of coincidence and a cloak worn by the spirit of Leonardo da Vinci. Gilchrist's matter-of-fact prose carries a gloss of melodrama, and her characters are given to pontificating (about such matters as the fatwa against Salman Rushdie), didactic speeches (about the makeup of the universe, etc.) and outlandish behavior. Nine additional stories make up the second section. One of them centers on Nora Jane as a ""very special, charismatic"" child (Gilchrist is particularly good with children's and teenagers' dialogue), and all are imbued with wry humor, nostalgia for lost innocence and gratitude for the power of memory to enrich life. Gilchrist's hand is sure, her vision keen and sometimes antic, and the world she has created in 12 previous books is expanded and enhanced by these luminous tales. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 11/04/1996
Release date: 11/01/1996
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 288 pages - 978-0-316-31771-9
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