North of Nowhere, South of Loss by Janette Turner Hospital (HarperCollins), 286 pages, $19.95 paper. Rating: NNNN
Janette Turner Hospital reading Wednesday (October 27) and interviewed October 30. See listings this page for details.
I don't have the best attitude toward short stories. I find them unsatisfying - either I feel like I'm being teased or I suspect the writer of not having the discipline to complete an idea. I have neither of those reactions to Janette Turner Hospital's short fiction.
That's because each of her stories comes across as a mystery, its author throwing out just the right number of clues along with the way.
Though her stories are set in places as disparate as America's Deep South, Ontario cottage country, Paris and Osaka, the majority are located in her home country, Australia, whose vegetation and landscapes you can almost feel and smell.
Characters could be going insane, or maybe they're just a little out of touch. In Frames And Wonders, a man may be stalking a woman, but then again, perhaps she just can't cope with being attracted to him. Is the mother in Mr. Voss Or Occupant paranoid when it comes to her daughter or plain intuitive?
In almost all the stories, many of which unfold in an elegant stream of consciousness, people endure unspeakable pain physical sometimes, but mostly emotional. Hospital has no problem going to difficult places.
Especially moving are four stories interspersed through the collection that feature recurring characters with a fascinating and fractured friendship. And not once did I wonder why Hospital doesn't just write a novel about those two and be done with it.