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10.29.08

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Phaedra

Yesterday's Weather: Stories

Reviewed by Karen Laws


LIKE a CD box set, Yesterday's Weather brings together the short fiction of Irish writer Anne Enright, who last year won the Man Booker Prize for her novel The Gathering. Thirty-one stories previously published in London—19 new, 10 from her 1991 collection The Portable Virgin, plus two from a 1989 anthology—will leave Enright's American fans salivating for more. When the protagonists of these stories examine their everyday lives, what others might dismiss as "yesterday's weather" becomes strange and mysterious. Unflinching in her honesty, unapologetically lusty and affronted by human suffering, Enright's contemporary Dubliner has a nose for humor but never glosses over the pain.

In "Green," a wife recalls the church where she got married as a "Gothic barn ... so cold my arms were mottled red and orange, poking out of the white dress like chicken legs," while in the heartbreaking "Little Sister," the narrator observes, "It takes years for anorexics to die, that's the other thing." Enright's prose, while possessing a natural, spoken quality that can make readers feel they are opening their hearts to a friend, will impress the most sophisticated literature aficionado.

From the latest Dublin slang ("that slapper over in IT") to stunning metaphors (a young mother who "hoofed the sliding door open"), the language brings Enright's characters to life. In "Pillow," a university student recalls "looking at the weather as it fell past the street lamp outside: a slight snow, or drizzle, or just the night itself in a long yellow cone. This little slice of weather made me think that the air is really busy and there is an awful lot of it, and it was good to be inside and small and barely, just barely, existing. I felt almost flayed—peeled bare and true." You will find duds among these stories (sometimes the quotidian is merely boring), but it's hard to find a page that lacks some moment, however small, of genius. (By Anne Enright; Grove Press; 306 pages; $24 hardback)

 

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