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Short stories are usually just that, quite short, about eight to ten pages. Condensing time and space into theme and character are paramount but there is not much opportunity to enhance the story with a plot.

With “Nine Avenues” there are three major pieces that develop vistas and delve into character through the action of the story. The opener, “Written” is about a man, the narrator, as he settles into his new house, although it is very old and in bad condition, in a part of a town that has seen better days. As he steadily repairs the house he discovers the neighborhood and builds new connections. It has the feeling of the passing of a day, but mixed with new chances to be taken on the next morning.

Imagine being stuck in an airport during a heavy blizzard. Then, from nowhere, a girlfriend, a boyfriend, from years and years ago bumps into you. As if for no reason you had to talk to this person and all the memories of how you had once been together, and how it ended fell out of your memory. “Then Silence” is about two people who meet in odd circumstances. The awkwardness, the polite conversation, the filling in of the years, and the differences of lives from then and now touch both people. There is something else too and that is the realization of how much they had loved each other. But once the airport is cleared of the blizzard they must go their own ways and resume their separate lives.

The mènage á trois has been a stock of drama and movies. There is an unsettling conflict between three people with their own interests. “And Then” is about a man who meets another woman and they begin an affair; his wife suspects but knows the marriage is all but over anyway. This story allows each person to speak in their own voice, to say what they see and how they feel. The overlap between the personal realities is contrasting and shows that love is sometimes a very hard bargain.

Guy Cranswick
13 April 2012

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