cover image How It Was for Me

How It Was for Me

Andrew Sean Greer / Author Picador USA $23 (224p) ISBN 978-0-3

In his debut collection, comprising 11 short fictions, Greer reveals sensitive, unpredictable characters in direct but subtle prose, saving his most powerful stories for the end. ""The Future of the Flynns"" examines one mostly ordinary family as they venture to an Italian restaurant, describing each family member both appreciatively and ruthlessly. Of grandmother Leona, Greer writes: ""Leona['s]... thin hair, dyed a believable red and teased into a dull hot-air balloon of lacquer, catches the fluorescent light. It becomes a glowing nest."" ""Come Live with Me and Be My Love"" is a touching tale of a gay man and a lesbian, both of upper-class backgrounds, who marry for social convenience in the late 1960s. As social mores change and the pair can finally live without their charade, they find that their partnership isn't easy to abandon. These two narratives achieve an immediacy that evades the rest of the book, though each story is uniformly polished and assured. In ""The Art of Eating,"" Bobbie, a 60-year-old recent divorc e, takes a job as a companion for an eccentric, rich older man. Her duties involve eating strange and exotic foods, then describing her gustatory experience to her employer, who is too ill to eat the delicacies himself. ""The Walker,"" in which Furman, a widower, delights in his new practice of escorting women to fancy affairs, captures the sense of upper-class disenchantment that serves as a subtheme for the collection. Furman possesses a casual beauty that serves him well in his new endeavor: ""He is handsome so effortlessly--you couldn't dress him wrong; couldn't wreck his looks without a knife."" Many of these stories project that same kind of effortlessness--suggesting that more strong writing from Greer will follow. (Apr.)