Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Prayer and Parable: Stories by Paul Maliszewski

Prayer and Parable: StoriesPrayer and Parable: Stories by Paul Maliszewski

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Having followed Paul Maliszewski’s estimable forays as a critic and journalist-essayist, I was excited to explore his just-published collection of short fiction, Prayer and Parable. Readers already know Paul as hip and super-smart, a keen observer and a rigorous writer who resists the lure of pat summary and probes instead for the pertinent detail that brings a singular light to his chosen subject matter.

No surprise, then, that his fiction exhibits the same precision of attention. Paul’s style is lean and self-aware, without being show-offy and distancing. The settings of his “prayers and parables” range from the concrete “real” to the genuinely surreal, yet I found that every story conjured an almost dreamlike state for me, a place of quiet unease. Whether he’s exploring the jutting facets of social awkwardness in a seemingly civil setting, or the emotional confusion that comes with recognizing the fragility of life, Paul’s stories do indeed have an invocational quality to them that left me with the same sense of the sacred on display that I get at the better art galleries. While the panicking publishing industry generates ever-larger catalogues of lurid hyperbole, this book quietly slips in as a welcome gift of sane, devotional focus.

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