Early Stories, the first book of Theroux’s fiction to be published in fourteen years, constitutes an addition to one of modern American literature’s most lauded and entertaining bodies of work. It is also the first volume in his story triad (Fables and Later Stories soon to follow).
Nobody writing today has a keener instinct for obsession, hypocrisy, sexual jealousy, envy, human folly, the lineaments of vanity, greed, and romantic disappointment, and, yes, grace. A feast of comic joy awaits you in this long-awaited collection. Here, the sword arm of satire is swung high! We encounter an intractable woman who refuses to divulge the secret to her spaghetti sauce. A tourist discovers a modern Nestor in an English pub. An idealistic teacher who is also a broken-hearted lover leaves us speechless over his overwhelming fixation. A hide-bound feminist goes to Italy to learn pasta making. A beautiful Bostonian, becoming a fashion model, achieves a much different goal. What is the effect of summer camp on a sensitive youngster? How does a hunt in Cracow for the alpenstock of great Copernicus end up a comic farce? Does a young boy with a genius IQ fulfill his promise? What happens when a collector discovers the rarest autograph in American letters?
Nothing prepares the reader for the twists and turns of these unsparing but brilliantly plotted stories. Language is, however, the subject, the splendid gift of one of the nation’s word-masters, a magician who fashions words out of his fingertips. Satire, it is said, swipes off the noggin but leaves the head in place. Here, the head still manages to find its voice-to our great and continuing pleasure.