Tuesday, August 27, 2013

"Amor and Psycho," by Carolyn Cooke

I read and very much liked Carolyn Cooke’s earlier two books (see my posts of 7/14/11 and 7/18/11). I have now read her latest book, a collection of short stories titled “Amor and Psycho” (Knopf, 2013). It is quirkier than the other two books, and has a slight feeling of a miscellaneous collection, in that the stories are very different from each other in subject and in style. Some are strong, some less so. There are a few themes running through the collection. One is serious illness, such as cancer and a brain tumor. Another is broken marriages or relationships. Still another -- an important one -- is the unassuming, matter-of-fact resilience shown by so many human beings in the face of tragedies and hardships. What I especially like about this collection is that so many of the stories surprise the reader. I love to be surprised, not just in the O. Henry “surprise twist ending” way, but in originality of plot, premise, character, and tone. There is a certain something that sometimes reaches out and grabs the reader in an “OH!” of suddenly perceiving the unexpected; it is very satisfying when this happens.

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