Accomplished and often overlooked literary stylist McElroy (Preparations for Search) hauls out some old and some new stories that question what is knowable and what is being subverted. A teacher's comment to a Brooklynite Arab boy in "No Man's Land" that "we are all nomads" comes to encompasses the peripatetic life of the poet narrator, whose comings and goings intersect with those of the boy's. In "Mister X," another banal occurrence—an urban planner riding his bike in the middle of the night gets a flat, which is then fixed by a kindly stranger—leads the protagonist to an alluring acupuncturist and a gradual, not incidental shifting of his perceptions. Within these fractured narratives, the reader is ushered into what one story calls a "shimmer theory" of blasted perceptions: in "Character," a boyhood summer project takes on a passionate new urgency in a grown man's retelling as he imagines the anecdote to be a kind of foreplay for his (perhaps unfortunate) woman listener. McElroy is ever nimble and probing, and these stories read like intricate puzzles to be patiently pieced through. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 11/01/2010 Release date: 01/01/2011 Genre: Fiction
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