Radiance: Ten Stories

John Jacob Clayton, Author Ohio State University Press $21.95 (208p) ISBN 978-0-8142-0780-2
An easy bet for one of the year's 10 best collections, Clayton's second book of stories (after Bodies of the Rich) struggles repeatedly to ""invite God into a `realistic' story,"" usually the story of a successful Jewish man like Peter Weintraub, a recurring character who, in ""The Man Who Saw Radiance,'' one day looks at his secretary, sees ""a life intended to stay secret, even from herself"" and, as a result of his insight, watches his own existence fall apart. This theme is repeated, with fascinating variations throughout the collection: the dangerous intuition of a life kept secret, even from the self, is Clayton's true subject. Like Bernard Malamud (a writer whose best work this collection recalls), Clayton risks sentimentality, but the risk is exhilarating; he writes precariously, in what seems a state of grace, while his ""God-disturbed"" characters teeter through quasi-religious ecstasy into what even they recognize as mawkishness and isolation, each one like an ""addict, who'd felt the rich fabric of life through his drug and then, his blood neutralized, felt nothing."" The compromise between divine presence and worldly distraction gives Clayton's decalogue a suspense, sadness and irony rare in contemporary fiction. With neither a perfect ear for dialogue nor a particularly keen sense of plot, Clayton more than atones for those shortcomings with perfect sentences in a voice unmistakably his own. (May)
Reviewed on: 03/02/1998
Release date: 03/01/1998
Genre: Fiction
Hardcover - 194 pages - 978-0-8142-0779-6
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