by Gina Berriault
: Whether focusing on yuppies or drifters, social workers or Indian restaurateurs, heroin addicts or teenage baby-sitters, Berriault (The Lights of Earth) writes with great psychological acuity and a compassion that comes always from observation, never from sentimentality. These 35 short stories have been published in magazines ranging from the Paris Review to Harper's Bazaar; 10 of them are here issued in book form for the first time. In "Who Is It Can Tell Me Who I Am?" the dapper Alberto Perera, "a librarian who did not look like one," fears that the young drifter who has befriended him, wishing to discuss the Spanish poetry he carries in his pockets, is out to kill him; but the drifter is only trying to understand how--both literally and philosophically--to live. A 79-year-old psychologist woos a young, pragmatic waitress in "The Infinite Passion of Expectation." When she meets his ex-wife and witnesses the selfishness spawned by a life spent in deferment, she flees. In the clever "The Search for J. Kruper," an extremely famous and narcissistic novelist, noted for writing grand, poorly disguised autobiographical confessions, learns of the possible whereabouts of one of the few remaining living novelists as famous as he, a recluse who betrays nothing of himself in his writings. Each story is constructed so gracefully that it's easy to overlook how carefully crafted Berriault's writing is. Her lilting, musical prose adds a sophisticated sheen to the truths she mines.
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