Elliot Perlman's new book, The Reasons I Won't Be Coming, isn't so much a collection of stories as a collection of narrators. Well, okay, it is a collection of stories, too -- there are nine here, some quite short, some novella-length -- but the voices are what make a lasting impression.
The Washington Post
Perlman's bestseller Seven Types of Ambiguity was published in December of last year; this set of nine stories, first published in Perlman's native Australia in 2000, works the peripheries of similar territory and reads like a very successful set of outtakes and trial runs. The coldly luminous opener, "Good Morning, Again," perfectly captures the rueful, moment-by-moment disappointment of waking up after an empty liaison that follows an intense relationship. In "Manslaughter," Perlman, who is a barrister, uses a jury's own observations of one another to mercilessly send up the deliberative process (or decided lack thereof). The chirpy, inarticulate legalese a probate lawyer uses to voice his despair at the loss of his daughter (and then his wife) is rendered dead-on, as is the corporate-speak a spurned lover resorts to in a letter-never-sent-style monologue. A drawn-out story of a mad poet's minor redemption falls flat, as does a grotesque featuring a young, unloved student named Spitalnic, who literally has a hole in his heart. But "A Tale in Two Cities," the final novella charting the limits of Jewish emigr resilience, is Perlman in full: mystery, tight dialogue, layers of irony. At his best, Perlman makes false reasoning testify eloquently. (Dec. 1) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
From fairly brief impressionistic vignettes to longer family histories, this story collection showcases the talents of young, Australian-born Perlman (Seven Types of Ambiguity). In the longest tale, a young woman relates her Jewish family's emigration/escape from Russia during the Brehznev years and the beginnings of a new life in Australia. The young woman, Rose, and her strong-willed mother are able to adapt, the father and brother can't, and the brother moves out on his own before vanishing suddenly. Rose then hires a private investigator and tracks him down as the story takes improbable and sometimes humorous twists leading to a highly dramatic climax. Another longer story, "Manslaughter," depicts a criminal trial from the perspective of the victim's widow, who discovers a side of her husband she never knew as the events leading up to the crime are divulged. The touching story "I Was Only in a Childish Way Connected to the Established Order" tells how a poet suffering a mental breakdown relates everything in his own life to the Russian poet Osip Mandelstam and his tragic life and death under Stalin. Expansively written with admirable control and generous detail, this is an excellent collection and is highly recommended for fiction collections. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 8/05.]-Jim Coan, SUNY at Oneonta Lib. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
A richly varied collection of nine stories, first published in 2000, from the Australian barrister and author whose 2004 novel Seven Types of Ambiguity was a major critical success. Perlman's brisk staccato prose works to fine effect in several intense monologues, including one unnamed narrator's rueful farewell to his former lover following a night's lovemaking with a nubile "new friend" ("Good Morning, Again"); another's bitter lament to the former coworker who had only toyed with his obsessive affections ("Your Niece's Speech Night"); and a probate lawyer's passionate objections (in the story "The Hong Kong Fir Doctrine") expressed to the woman he had impregnated, lost to her husband and now importunes in the language he knows best ("Look at the effect of the breach. . . . There is damage"). The law also figures in "Manslaughter," an insistently readable (though somewhat diffuse) omniscient account of a murder trial involving two suburban families. But there are more strings than these to Perlman's bow. A schoolboy's fascination with prehistoric reptiles comments mordantly on the dwindling chances for survival of his parents' shaky marriage ("In the Time of the Dinosaur"). An emotionally fragile poet who's no match for his down-to-earth wife finds both intellectual comfort and the ironic realization of his destiny in the life and words of persecuted Russian Jewish poet Osip Mandelstam ("I Was Only in a Childish Way Connected to the Established Order"). And Perlman mines pure narrative gold from the theme of anti-Semitism-in a black-comic portrayal of a forlorn contemporary Job ("Spitalnic's Last Year"), and in the brilliant concluding novella "A Tale in Two Cities." This wrenchingstory, set in Moscow and Melbourne, traces an expatriate Russian Jewish family's "eternal vulnerability" to government persecution, culture shock and drug addiction, discovering hope when grieving Holocaust victims summon the strength to aid another scattered, shattered family. Provocative and powerful fiction from one of the best new writers on the international scene.
"Invigorating stories...enlived by Perlman's intelligence, verbal engergy, and mischevious wit." - Entertainment Weekly
"By turns hilarious and heartbreaking...Stunning...Brilliant." - Newsday
"Fans of Perlman's grapplings with both the minutiae and the sweeping 'big questions' of modern life won't be disappointed." - Elle
"Perlman writes fiction with muscle." - People
"The nine tales here don't just suggest an emerging voice, they show it well developed, stretching and flexing...Marvelously realized, evocative and utterly original." - New York Post