Short Constructions

You don't have to read far into the story collection Thief of Lives before John Cheever's name comes to mind, but after so many years of writing, Kit Reed must be used to that comparison. By now she should be replying: "Yes, but I write as well as that man did and occasionally even better. And besides, he's dead and I'm alive." Certainly she has established as good a claim as any to the territory of life. Hers is first-rate storytelling, and her protagonists are admirably tenacious. Middle and upper-middle class, for the most part, they are all attempting to struggle through life (usually middle age and beyond) while maintaining some shred of dignity.

Husbands and wives, parents and children, odd assortments of in-laws and friends: these relationships are her subject matter. Adults are looking back. Children are looking forward. Or vice versa. Everyone is blaming everyone else for everything, and yet finally they all must take responsibility for their own lives. Most of the stories are linked by these relationships and by an accompanying vision of physical entrapment. Whether a submarine, bomb shelter, snow cave, or vacation home, the central image is, in fact, that of the tomb. Death has freed Lazarus of life's responsibilities, and then, through the unsolicited assistance of Jesus, he is raised up and sent out to resume the struggle. Only now he has more than a hint of mortality and, apparently,...

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