Thursday, December 09, 2010

Life Times: Stories 1952-2007
by Nadine Gordimer
Farrar, Straus & Giroux

This prodigious volume (more than 500 pages) selects from more than a half century of short stories by the 1991 Nobel Prize in Literature Laureate, Nadine Gordimer. It follows by several months the publication of a similar collection of Nadine Gordimer's non-fiction, Telling Times. (Mark Gevisser writes appreciatively and in detail about both books in the Guardian.)

While both volumes are to be celebrated (and of course read), the appearance of that big book of non-fiction and interviews may have had the unsettling effect of stripping this volume of any context. In any case, it appears without an introduction, biographical notes, prior publication notes, appendix-- anything except the stories. I don't think I am the only one likely to be disappointed and even disoriented by this. An American audience would likely miss that contextual prose in such a collection by a well-known American writer, but this writer's biography--beginning in South Africa--is both very important to the stories, and not so well known here. So while anyone can certainly enjoy the stories in this volume, and it may prove indispensable for students of literature and the short story, as a book it may be unsatisfying for those who don't have or have access to Telling Times.

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