Friday, July 23, 2010

Cast In Doubt by Lynne Tillman

Right now I am reading Absence Makes the Heart, a short story collection by Lynne Tillman. It’s really great so far and brings into perspective what I find compelling about Tillman’s work: She crawls inside of fictional people and seems to channel her first person characters. You forget that you are reading the work of an author. The main characters of the books I’ve read so far are experts of some kind, which shapes the kind of self-talk done by the characters.

In Cast In Doubt the protagonist is a seventy-something American expat named Horace living in a small town in Greece. He becomes obsessed with a young American woman, Ruth, who rents a rotting house across from him. He ruminates on his interactions with her, obsessed with his obsession, weaving in and out of memories of his past and observations of his present. He is also writing a book about his ancestors that is just not getting done, whereas ideas for his moneymaking project, a detective series, just keep popping up. I like Horace best when he is being catty about others in clever ways, just like a good elder-gay should.

Horace’s voice is strong and his history is rock solid—when he laments the repressed yet sexually charged forties you do too, even if it is with a little eye roll for the psychic indulgences of a privileged old man. And when the story gets turned about a bit there is shock and questions. Mostly Cast In Doubt made me want to drink gallons of the cold white wine so sensually described by Horace.

I liked the book, but feel a tepidness towards it, most likely because I cared less for Horace than I did for American Genius’s skin-obsessed inmate.

*No picture because I returned this ages ago. No library jail for me!

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