Hints at stories. Hints at stories, with a familiar voice—not the familiarity of mere recognition, but the familiarity of intimacy. Those of us who’ve read a lot of Marías will understand, hopefully, that I’m not speaking of the narrator’s voice, but rather the author’s voice, Marías’ voice, a voice that speaks through a broad grin and says, “How lovely to see you again. Have I told you about…?” As the author’s voice becomes more familiar, other aspects of Marías’ style reemerge: his use of rhetoric, e.g. exquisite iteration of phrase, sequence or detail; his intricate characterization; his ability to build suspense from a mundane encounter. Twists of fate; humor, dry or dark. Classic Marías in bite-sized portions.
The Night Doctor—First do no harm? Really? Maybe? Perhaps.
The Italian Legacy—The inverse realities of two Italian women, friends of the narrator, and their unfortunate choices of men.
On the Honeymoon—An expanded excerpt of a scene from A Heart So White which makes me want to read that novel immediately. One of those astonishing scenes where Marías shines in his creation of character and tension between honeymooners and the woman-from-across-the-street. Pitch perfect.
Broken Binoculars—A chance encounter at a race track, an accessory after the fact? The narrator’s (and author’s) attention to detail might send you scurrying back to James Wood or David Lodge—as it will me. This one seems very familiar and may have been part of Tomorrow in the Battle Think On Me (published after the author’s introduction to this volume).
Unfinished Figures—A forger who might also commit a deceit? Also familiar is the character Custardoy (the Your Face Tomorrow sequence and A Heart So White). And that three-legged dog—hasn’t he been around the block once before, too?
Flesh Sunday—Two men watching the crowds on a beach, each with his own aim. Another wife named Luisa.
Fewer Scruples—A reluctant porn-actress gets a lesson in worse professions. Another cameo by Custardoy.
Spear Blood—Wow! A dispassionate narrator recounts the murder of an old friend some two years prior and his eventual solution to the mystery. By far, the longest story in this collection. Day-long Falknerian sentences, at times demanding and at other times, effortless music. Cameo appearance by Ruibérriz de Torres, a minor character in Tomorrow in the Battle Think On Me and the narrator of Bad Nature, or With Elvis in Mexico and a Mrs. Cromer-Blake—there is another character in All Souls, a gay professor named Cromer-Blake; I don’t recall mention of a Mrs.
Well worth the time spent reading; the appearances of characters from other JM works is a bonus, but none of the stories rely on their familiarity.