Initially, I was hesitant about reviewing this book. A collection of short stories is no easy feat to repass. However, I chose to continue and I'm glad that I did.
Consistent, entertaining, and thought-provoking by turn, the stories within are all wonderful and poignant; Gore Vidal is known more for his novels and essays, but these stories, originally published as Thirsty Evil, minus a new story, are to be treasured. Most stories are from Vidal's early career, with one inclusion, from Tennessee Williams' youth, removed due to the prolific playwright's request. Gore Vidal is truly a great storyteller.
"Erlinda and Mr. Coffin" was a strange and exotic tale of scandal, good for a chuckle or two. Chronicling an elderly woman's care of a tenant's ward as she is cast in community play, but all is not as it seems, giving way to a rather surprising ending. Vidal's characterization is crisp and clean, as a nosy old woman re-telling this event.
"A Moment of Green Laurel", a sweet, almost heart-breaking tale of a man returning to his childhood home, now lived in by a another family, and his journey into his past through several people, while in D.C, during a presidential inauguration.
"The Ladies in the Library", witty, faintly disturbing, with wonderful imagery, about a man returning to his family home in the company of his cousin, trying to connect with his roots, only to discover his journey home might not be in the way he's planning.
"The Zenner Trophy", the star athlete of an elite boarding school is caught in a homosexual relationship with another student, and is expelled. The majority of the story is a conversation between the student's adviser and the school's principal, revealing the cold homophobia of school administration and the helplessness of both the students and the faculty caught in the middle.
"Clouds and Eclipses", the title story, was originally going to be placed in the original anthology, but removed. Written after hearing a story from the playwright's youth, it narrates a young boy's decision to give his soul to God before he can commit a mortal sin, only to discover his beloved pastor uncle is being blackmailed for sexual misconduct with a minor. Amusing, sweet, and heartbreaking, it delves into the innocent mind of a boy as sinful incidents begin to corrupt him.
The anthology is worth a read, I only had one problem with it. Ever have the feeling there's something you should be getting, but you're not? Maybe it was just me, but as I was reading, I had the sinking feeling there was some sort of symbolism behind the stories that I wasn't understanding. If you can get over that feeling, then the book will be fine. The high energy and classic storytelling are too good to resist.