The Winds of Marble Arch and Other Stories
Connie Willis, . . Subterranean, $40 (0pp) ISBN 978-1-59606-110-1
Willis makes brilliant short fiction look easy in this collection of 23 novellas and short stories, which display a powerful range of sensibility, from poignant tenderness (“Inn”) and heartbreak (“Samaritan”) to close-to-the-bone satire (“Even the Queen”) and blackest savagery (“All My Darling Daughters”). The title novella illustrates many of Willis’s strengths. Starting from some inexplicable meteorological phenomenon like a blast of fetid air no one else in London’s Tube tunnels can feel or smell, “The Winds of Marble Arch” whirls its hapless narrator through one strange event after another, until finally his troubled marriage reaches an otherwise impossible transformation into “leaves and lilacs and love.” A bizarre snowstorm leads to a whole new fast-cut understanding of Christmas in “Just Like the Ones We Used to Know,” and another eerie blizzard brings the collection to a masterful close in “Epiphany,” opening a door between our puny reality and the Great Carnival around and above us all, even though we rarely perceive it. Willis’s gift promises that signs are everywhere; we just have to learn to recognize them.
Reviewed on: 07/16/2007