Sunday, 14 June 2009

Minor Robberies

OK, so I've given this collection a Five Star rating without reading the short stories by Dave Eggers and Sarah Manguso. Sue me. - says one

Although I enjoyed all three, Deb Olin Unferth's Minor Robberies stands out in this group. It is delightfully humorous, adventurous, and with a touch of mystery at times. - another.

Amateur reviewers are a strange mad bunch, and yes I am aware of the irony, naturally. There is a sense of pride in their assertions of having only read Deb Olin Unferth's 'Minor Robberies' collection, or that they only bought the collection for these ones, or that they are only interested in etc... However you cut it, the consensus seems to be well within Olin's orbit.

A bizarre phenomenon. For me, Olin's stories are the Dustin Hoffman of the McSweeney's collection. Accomplished, certatinly. Talented - of course. But they are also mannered to the point of impossibility. And, like Hoffman, wear their technique on their sleeve to the detriment of the impact. They are good actors, but they insist on working that 'look at me, I can act' thing into the plumage. Perhaps reviewers, like magpies, pick up on the shiny things.

Personally, I preferred Manguso's deceptive simplicty - a vastly more difficult trick to achieve - and Egger's erratic slight of hand - even more so, still.

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