At a glance:
- Author: Christopher Tilghman
- First Published: 1989
- Type of Work: Short Stories
- Genres: Short fiction, Domestic realism
- Subjects: Memory, Parents and children, Class conflict, South or Southerners, Authors or writers, Midwest, 1980's, New England, Pregnancy, Fathers, Upper classes, Storytelling, Women, Storms, Working class, Sailing or sailors, Widows or widowers, Hypocrisy, Morality or morals, Family reunions, Hippies
- Locales: Chesapeake Bay
These seven stories celebrate the solidity of place and the importance of community and family, defending the conservative values of working class men and landed gentry against any deviations from them or rebellions against them. In “On the Rivershore,” a Chesapeake Bay fisherman kills a no-account young man who is annoying his daughter; he disposes of his body with the help of his fellow watermen. In “Loose Reins,” a young man returns to his Montana home to try to come to terms with the fact that his mother has married a former ranch hand; he decides that the hand with his simple values is superior to his businesslike and busy father. A man sets out with his infant child in “Hole in the Day” to find his young wife, who, driven to despair by discovering she is pregnant with her fifth child, has run away; in the end she feels compelled to return to her role as mother and wife. And in the title story of the collection, the head of a well-established Maryland family drives out his son’s iconoclastic and domineering girlfriend, thus asserting the superiority of family over the post-modern views of the girlfriend, who reads Jacques Derrida and talks about how the son is “deconstructing” the family in the novel he is writing.
For those who approve of such conservative virtues these stories may serve as a welcome reaction against the narrative experiments and post-modern values that have characterized the short story in recent years. Tilghman’s prose, however, is often either flat or forced, and too full of explanation and tedious rumination to allow the narrative to emerge. There is little of the universal sense of mystery here that makes for short story permanence.
Sources for Further Study
Booklist. LXXXVI, April 15, 1990, p.1609.
The Christian Science Monitor. June 15, 1990, p. 13.
Kirkus Reviews. LVIII, February 15, 1990, p.218.
Library Journal. CXV, May 15, 1990, p.96.
Los Angeles Times Book Review. April 29, 1990, p.3.
The New Republic. CCII, June 4, 1990, p.40.
The New York Times Book Review. XCV, May 6, 1990, p. 12.
Newsweek. CXV, April 2, 1990, p.59.
Publishers Weekly. CCXXXVII, February 9, 1990, p.44.
Time. CXXXVI, July 2, 1990, p.67.
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