Mr. Bones: Twenty Stories

Houghton Harcourt. Sept. 2014. 368p. ISBN 9780544324022. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780544324039. F
Without slipping overtly into the realm of "men's lit," Theroux's fiction often grapples with the concept of manhood, with its focus on issues of power, pride, and obsession. The stories in this collection are varied, and some are rich in the details of exotic places, as befits this renowned travel writer; all are highly entertaining—a couple are award winners—with the plot twists and sometimes startling resolutions that mark the best of the short story genre. In one gem, a fabulously wealthy man sets about to systematically destroy the rare artifacts in his art collection; with escalating hubris, he contemplates murdering his exotic girlfriend, whom he treats as a possession, but instead finds the limits of his power. In the titular story, a henpecked husband asserts his position in the family by transforming himself into the minstrel show character he's portraying in a charity performance. A longer piece, in which a conservative accountant working in Bangkok becomes emotionally involved with a "ladyboy," is a study in sexual obsession.
VERDICT This excellent new collection allows readers to sample an array of Theroux's most entertaining fiction in short story form; highly recommended.
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