every once in a while, people (faculty mostly) will leave books they no longer want or need on a particular desk in the department. i tend to pounce on those offerings because, well… i like a free book as much as the next book-a-holic. this time, however, i’ve been disappointed. in fact, i am a little upset. is this really all you have to say, stacy?
stacy bierlein’s ‘a vacation on the island of ex-boyfriends‘ (story collection) starts out promisingly enough with the title story, but from there on (i am about half way through) it’s pretty much literally a shag-a-thon rather than a vacation.
while judging from the design and layout etc this does not look like chick-lit, i’m sorry to say, well, that’s what it is. the cover quotes someone as saying “Bierlein’s stories are beautifully made, constantly surprising and utterly believable.” i beg to differ.
the stories have main characters who tend to be hot shot architects, hollywood writers or photographers who run off to europe for months, married to designers, and infallibly finding exotic lovers (exotic either for being much older, or foreigners, or “jerks”) whose stamina seems inexhaustible. the only other type of central character i have come across to far in this book is the tragic mother / want-to-be mother.
the story titled ‘luxor’ has promise but ultimately didn’t really work for me because it was somewhat heavy-handed: an expatriate (american) photographer happens to be in the middle of the gunfire at luxor and saves a little egyptian girl by shielding her with her body. she is also incapable of having children, and covering this crying child she can hardly communicate with ultimately causes her to feel ‘saved.’ as i said, the idea is interesting, but the story itself is not very elegantly told.
bierlein’s characters are always one or the other, – hyper-sexual or hyper-maternal. in one instance i ended up pencilling “OMG” in the margin: a new mommy, in no way afraid of being a single mom should her addict husband run off, suddenly has this epiphany (we’ve already heard more than once that she hates coconuts):
When she thinks of coconuts again, she feels a twinge of guilt for failing to value them. After all, they have milk too. (51)
reading these stories i had to think of minot’s lust and other stories – which might not be a fair comparison, i don’t know, but i feel that minot is much more successful at addressing the issue of lust and love, without heavy-handed lists of all the pieces of furniture sex has been had on by the characters or accounts of how many condoms and orgasms were involved.
i’ll put this book back where i found it, maybe someone else will enjoy it. if it’s anything, it’s escapist reading, but it’s too flat, has no magic, and, well, there’s just too much sex for me. each to their own, i guess.
p.s. – i just noticed that, according to amazon.com, this title isn’t even available until march. 🙂 how’s that for an early warning!