World's End

World's End

3.13 (15 ratings by Goodreads)
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Product details

  • Hardback | 256 pages
  • 148 x 212 x 26mm | 458.13g
  • London, United Kingdom
  • 0241104475
  • 9780241104477

Review Text

No writing by Paul Theroux is without narrative satisfactions of one sort or another, but this unflattering collection of 15 recent stories (unlike the happily cumulative The Consul's File) tends to stress the limitations of his increasingly Anglo-fied fiction: the emotional thinness of his drama, the archness of his comedy, the frequent obviousness of both, the rather lazy reliance on the conflict of culture-clashes. Two conversation-tales of cross-culturization - provincial Dutch wives in search of "The English Adventure," a traveling Massachusetts youth who comes home thoroughly Samoa-ized ("Yard Sale") - do have genuine people lurking within, but they sink ever further from sight as Theroux leans on their satirized lingo, a single-joke surface. "After the War" crudely juxtaposes a French father's pious reminders of the cruelties of war with his own domestic violence. Likewise "Clapham Junction," in which an icy mother's unloving attitude towards her retarded daughter ("she is like a different racial type altogether") is paralleled by colonial-ish chatter about Orientals. There are two rather unconvincing stories in which strangely passive Americans (one of them is that much-storied consul from Ayer Hitam) face drably kinky situations in Europe. And the longest story, "The Greenest Island," is the weakest of all: an unwed, college-dropout couple, poor and pregnant in 1961 Puerto Rico - their growing dismay with each other, their dread of marriage, their loss of illusions, with each emotional development laboriously sign-posted along the way. Better are the very short stories - "Words Are Deeds," "World's End" - that suggest genuine emotions by sliding around them. But Theroux really only seems in full control here in the narrowest of genres: the Maugham-ish colonial horrorsuspense of "White Lies"; savage (but somehow affectionate) send-ups of the climbers and parasites who oil through literary/academic circles (including a thinly veiled glimpse of the aged Jean Rhys). And the single genuine triumph of the collection is the tiny non-story "Acknowledgements" - a giddy parody of fulsome authors' prefatory thank-yous that also, along the way, gives a splendid portrait of the acknowledger himself: hapless, selfish, bicycle-borrowing Dr. Milton Rumbellow, Chairman of the Department of Literature, Yourgrau College (Wyola Campus). Minor pleasures, minor disappointments - the least impressive side of a polished but often-mechanical writer. (Kirkus Reviews)show more

Rating details

15 ratings
3.13 out of 5 stars
5 0% (0)
4 40% (6)
3 33% (5)
2 27% (4)
1 0% (0)
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