cover image Strange Attractors: 2stories

Strange Attractors: 2stories

Rebecca Goldstein, Author Viking Books $21 (288p) ISBN 978-0-670-84640-5

Nine somewhat cumbersome short stories continue the philosophical musings earlier sounded in Goldstein's novels The Dark Sister and The Mind-Body Problem (see Paperback Forecasts this issue). Here, a predominantly intellectual cast explores the relationships between art and experience, intellect and passion, tradition and ambition. Peripheral links among the various entries, meanwhile, reinforce Goldstein's suggestion of discernible patterns within a world of mysteries. Goldstein adopts playful tactics--a hostile academic audience listens as a character from Vanity Fair delivers a paper on fictional realism in ``The Predicate of Existence''; a 19th-century governess fashions her own gothic romance in ``From Dreams of the Dangerous Duke.'' Another favored subject--a younger generation's response to its Jewish heritage--is explored from opposing points of view in ``Mindel Gittel,'' told by a refugee from the Holocaust, and ``Rabbinical Eyes,'' related by a rabbi's daughter. In general, however, Goldstein subordinates plot, pacing and character development to exposition of her themes; although she tries out different narrative voices , she achieves spontaneity rarely. Pleasure, for the reader as well as the protagonists, is chiefly cerebral. (Mar.)