FICTION

The Beautiful Indifference: Stories

HarperPerennial: HarperCollins. Feb. 2013. 208p. ISBN 9780062208453. pap. $14.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062208460. F
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Author of the Man-Booker-shortlisted The Electric Michelangelo, Hall weaves together elements of gothic horror, futuristic sf, and the British tradition of murder ballads to create a strikingly original voice full of lyric intensity. The animal nature of human longing lies at the heart of this collection, as does the connection between physical abandon and actual or imagined loss. In one story, a woman hurt by her lover's declaration that something is wrong in their relationship loses her way when walking near the ocean; in another, again in a remote setting near the water (this time in a village in Finland), a woman whose mind continually wanders into memories of blissful lovemaking realizes that her lover has not returned from a swim in the lake. Other stories involve minks and their pelts, dead bees in a garden ("still, fossil-looking things"), and the revelation of horse butchery, among other grisly scenes.
VERDICT Hall's work, like that of Joyce Carol Oates and Patricia Highsmith, uses the conventions of genre fiction to great advantage, presenting the dangers to which we cannot help but expose ourselves simply by being human.

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