In these stories, the author of Jernigan (runner-up for the Pulitzer Prize) and Preston Falls (finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award) illuminates with unflinching vision and hard-earned compassion a great variety of lives: men and women, young and old, in thrall to--or in flight from--jobs less creative than the echoing past had promised, as their parents, siblings or children die, implode or (perhaps just as bad) flourish. Gates's people know their Hopper, Huysmans and Haggard, their Beckett, Bartoli and Billie Holiday, more confidently than they know their families, friends and lovers.
Yet they're terrifyingly self-aware, and refuse to go gently--even when they're going nowhere fast. The author the New York Times calls "a novelist of the very first order" now stakes a similar claim as a writer of short fiction.
My first thought of the day is: And we are supposedly good people. (from "Beating")
Moral support: a weird expression. Was the assumption that people's morals needed shoring up in time of stress? Or was it moral of you to lend support? ("The Crazy Thought")
But it's not his baby, of course, nor mine. The baby is its own baby. I think of it as a girl, because the idea of a tiny man inside me is, is, is what? Repulsive, I was going to say . . . ("The Bad Thing")
If anything is strange, it's her husband's refusing to get rid of his dead mother's wheelchair. ("Saturn")
What you don't do is get into porn on the Internet. You don't get a cat. You could possibly get a dog, but not a small dog. ("Star Baby")
Out Main Street we flew and onto Massachusetts Avenue, and the people on the sidewalks seemed to pass each other in comradely fashion, like the angels in Jacob's dream--a thing I hadn't thought about since I was a boy in Sunday school--moving up and down the ladder that reached from earth to heaven. They began to be surrounded by a pulsing radiance, and I thought I saw some of them passing right through others. It didn't strike me as out of the ordinary. ("The Mail Lady")