Sunday, December 23, 2012

Reading Journal: The Man in the Shed, by Lloyd Jones (2009)

A career-spanning collection from the only New Zealand writer I can name, in which several stories take place in a somewhat rural childhood and involve learning about why adults act the way they do - infidelity, usually. Jones's prowess in matters of the heart is especially well-displayed in the closing story, the 40-page "Amateur Nights," in which a barroom conversation leads to one man retelling classic Russian novels in order to help the other reconnect with his wife, who seems lost in the worlds they tell of; "Dogs" shows us an animalistic response from a man in a failing relationship, and the title story and "Who's That Dancing with My Mother?" make similar themes come alive. What I like most in his writing, I think, are the romantic flourishes; though he's plumbing some dark depths of human nature, in a single sentence we can suddenly forget this and focus on the idealized goal, the mark the characters have missed before winding up where they are. And a final story to mention, "Still Lives," a very short and gutting piece about discovering that a man dead behind the wheel is the source of a routine traffic jam. In all, it's a great introduction to the Jones beyond Mister Pip, and aside from "Where the Harleys Live," there's hardly a misstep in the book. I'll definitely keep reading him, he's become one of my favourites.

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