The Store of a Million Items

The Store of a Million Items

by Michelle Cliff
     
 

As Marge Piercy said of an earlier collection by this acclaimed Caribbean-American writer: "Michelle Cliff has come into her full powers in fiction . . .These quietly written voices seize the reader's imagination with a gentle, remorseless grip that does not weaken." With a precise economy of language and unsentimental intelligence, Cliff's new stories show people…  See more details below

Overview

As Marge Piercy said of an earlier collection by this acclaimed Caribbean-American writer: "Michelle Cliff has come into her full powers in fiction . . .These quietly written voices seize the reader's imagination with a gentle, remorseless grip that does not weaken." With a precise economy of language and unsentimental intelligence, Cliff's new stories show people confronting the central dualities of a complex world: black and white, colonialism and revolution, America and the Third World, femininity and masculinity. In Tillie Olsen's words, "Cliff is rare, and is already distinguished as a writer of great substance and power." A MARINER PAPERBACK ORIGINAL.

Editorial Reviews

Megan Harlan
liff displays a dazzling array of subjects, presented with the precision and finesse of one who knows her literary stock backward and forward. -- NY Times Book Review
Kirkus Reviews
A wispy second collection (after "Bodies of Water", 1990) of 11 often inchoate stories from the Jamaican-born author of, among others, "Free Enterprise" (1993). Mostly told in present tense and dominated by brief sentence fragments, these are expressions of cultural and ethnic dislocation and conflict whose protagonists are, generally, Caribbeans either possessed by visions of American wealth and security (as in the title piece) or struggling to understand the imperfect fulfillment of their fantasies once they've emigrated. Cliff's prose is assured and rhythmic, but there's virtually no dramatic tension in the majority of these sketches (several really can't be called stories). Some verge on sociological reportage ("Apache Tears"); a few seem autobiographical ("Stan's Speed Shop," "Wartime," and especially a tale of former lovers' reunited: "Art History"). But the most frustrating inclusion is "A Public Woman," which, though fascinating in its elliptical account of a courtesan's murder a century ago, is clearly only a 'Cliff's notes', if you will—of a story she hasn't written yet. Vivid descriptions help, as do recurring elements—such as the use of American movies as examples of possessions and states of being to which her frequently indigent characters aspire ("Some of our best times are spent in the dark, thrilled by the certainty that in the dark anything can happen"). Accordingly, Cliff succeeds best with the nicely developed "Monster," about an ardent newlywed determined to bond with his Jamaican bride's family by stubbornly completing a screening of the classic horror film Frankenstein—even after the theater catches fire. Better yet is the volume's opening story,"Transactions," which traces the grimly comic consequences of an American traveler's purchase of a defiant young girl from her impoverished family. Apart from these two, the momentum is essentially downhill in a disappointing patchwork publication from a writer who's capable of much better work than this.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780395901298
Publisher:
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
05/15/1998
Pages:
128
Product dimensions:
5.24(w) x 8.28(h) x 0.37(d)

Meet the Author

Michelle Cliff is the Allen K. Smith Professor of English Language and Literature at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. She is the author of the novels Abeng, No Telephone to Heaven, and Free Enterprise, the collectiion Bodies of Water, and works of poetry and Criticism.

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