Around the World in 80 Books by David Damrosch
Short stories set mainly in USA – plus author QA
14th June 2018
The Lost Heifetz and Other Stories by Michael Tabor, short stories set mainly in USA.
This is one of those delightful books that arrives through the door, no pomp and ceremony, no pre-publication hype. A book with a strong cover that invites the reader to pick it up. I did. Short stories are not particularly my go-to genre, but when they are punchy, well written and with, at times, satirical overtones, then there is actually so much to like and enjoy.
The author has a particularly self effacing and low key style that leads you through each of the 12 stories, and there is always a little twist with an unusual element. The book opens with the The Lost Heifetz, where a serendipitous encounter in a New York record story turns out to be life changing, going from the present day back to WW2…. you can almost hear the violin music conjured up through the words.
And how about a pawnbroker of literary works in The Pawnbroker? A novel concept for a reader to unravel and appreciate for its originality. In Secret Agent the author explores the mysteries of marriage where the imbalance of power drives one partner to think about breaking away.
In Home Again Jean Jones, the reliable house sitter is not who she seems. Multiple personalities parade through this story but that might be an altogether simplistic take on the situation! In another story the author drops in on an English village to examine life under the lord of the manor. From there, the stories move on to look at perspectives on theatre life, to mourning and relationships within a Jewish household and back to the States as author David McMillen lives the ‘typical’ (actually not so typical) high life of an author.
There is much to entertain and amuse, and perceptive scenarios and unusual takes all make this an interesting and engaging set of stories where reality and fiction collide.
Tina for the TripFiction Team
Over to Michael…
TF: Where are your stories set? Why did you choose those settings?
MT: The stories are set in a variety of places in the U.S. and Britain, and they explore the zeitgeist of late twentieth and early twenty-first century life. I grew up in the UK but have spent most of my adult life in the U.S., so it was natural for me to set stories in both places. The cultures of both countries contradict and complement each other in many fascinating ways. In the UK I mainly lived in Cambridge and Bristol, and spent quite a lot of time in London—an amazing city (that I continue to visit as often as possible) that plays an explicit role in such stories as Sir George and the Dragon, Non Finito, and The Show Never Stops. In the US I have lived in the Midwest (the setting for Secret Agent), Southern California, the Southwest (the setting for Home Again) and New York, where I lived on the Upper West Side that provided the setting and inspiration for the signature story, The Lost Heifetz.
TF: Is there a unifying theme or common thread that runs throughout the stories?
MT: The stories in The Lost Heifetz are all very different: set in different places, written about characters from very different walks of life, and stylistically different, as well. In the end, though, I think each one of them is about what we all try to do, namely to make a life for ourselves in whatever form that takes. This often involves grappling with the past, and coming to terms with the different ways people see us, and how this does, or does not, align with the way we see ourselves.
TF: Although you spent most of your life in academia, only one of the stories in the collection, “Measure for Measure,” takes place there. Why did you choose to write about people from such different backgrounds?
MT: I think this comes down to curiosity again. We all need an identity, so part of what made writing this collection fun and challenging was to explore this universal issue for men and women across a wide variety of socioeconomic backgrounds and circumstances. And also, for the most part, this authorincluded, academics are a pretty boring bunch.
TF: You’ve spent your career as a scientist. What inspired you to change directions so drastically and write this collection of short stories?
MT: It’s not as drastic as it might at first seem. I was trained as a scientist and studied applied mathematics for many years. Applied mathematics is very much a multidisciplinary endeavor, which I think — and hope — speaks to my curiosity about how the world works. In math and science, questions are asked and hypotheses are explored, which is not so different from writing stories. In science, of course, there are methodological constraints and truth is fundamental. By contrast, in fiction there are few constrains and truth is disposable, and this makes writing fiction a lot of fun.
Thank you so much to Michael for sharing more about his work. You can of course buy his book from your preferred bookseller on the TripFiction database
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