Law of Desire
Blatnik’s (You Do Understand?
) collection of 16 stories includes longer narratives as well as short experiments, all dealing with desire, sometimes obliquely. Violence is a major theme in “No,” which is about a woman choked by an abusive lover, and “When Marta’s Son Returned,” which concerns a war veteran whose trauma estranges him from his mother and from himself. Some pieces are wonderfully humorous: such as in the aptly titled “Just as Well,” a man finds his wife in bed with a friend and, after pointing a gun at them, accompanies them to dinner and drinks instead. Some stories delve into darkly profound territory, like “A Thin Red Line,” in which a former terrorist chooses a humanitarian suicide, sacrificing himself for a tribe’s rain ritual; others play with postmodernism, like “Nora’s Face,” in which the narrator, trying to describe a moment in the lives of James Joyce and his wife, Nora, struggles with the “knowledge that reality is less malleable to the laws of our desires than are the figments of our imagination.” Many of Blatnik’s pieces don’t name their characters, and refer to them simply by gender or position. Recurring themes and story placement (for instance, “Closer” followed by “Too Close Together”) serve as connective tissue, but the tone, effectively, is consistently unpredictable. (Aug.)