She Loves Me Not – New and Selected Stories, by Ron Hansen
I’m old school, I admit it. I do tinker with structure when I’m writing, but not enough to take away from the major tenets of the short story or novel: character development, moving story forward in the Aristotlean manner of rising action, climax, denouement. These, while leaving participatory room for the reader.
I know other forms of tinkering occur in writing classes of various sorts, and one may forgive many things, but not robbing the reader of being properly entertained and/or informed.
Lest I be accused of curmudgeonly ways, I have to give Hansen his props: he’s not afraid to experiment. But in experimental mode, a writer can’t expect every test tube to turn lead to gold, an adage that the She Loves Me Not collection proves true. The author experiments here with a journalistic form of fiction in “Wilde in Oklahoma.” He writes “Nebraska” trying to see if narrative alone can carry the story. He toys with flash fiction in “The Sleepwalker.” And in “The Theft,” he tries to resolve character and storyline in a final sentence or two, a piece perhaps too short to carry out his designs. In the title story, an otherwise engaging tale, his narrator’s voice seems counter to his characters and storyline.
The popularity of story collections doesn’t wane; such collections are a repository for the odd scribbles of writers both learning the craft and of those wishing to toy with the tried and true. However, I’ve always found them unsatisfying for these reasons – the best foot is rarely put forward in collections.
Still, Hansen imprints his stories with enough wit and talent to make the read worthwhile. But I would get his one at the local library, not buy it.
My Rating: 14 of 20 stars