Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“The Love Decoy” may be thin on plot, weak in characterization, and even lacking in socially redeeming value, but it is, without question, a virtuoso performance on the level of style and technique. Few writers wield the pen with such brio, such wild abandon, or such precision. From argot to arcana, Perelman is a match for panderers, pickpockets, and professors. Perelman’s prose can, in fact, be confidently approached only with a stack of unabridged dictionaries, several books of quotations, a companion to world literature, and a complete encyclopedia of films. Even the well-equipped reader will stumble across conundrums enough to keep a quizzical look on his or her face. When it comes to language, Perelman frequently “out-Herods Herod.”

“The Love Decoy” is a prime example of Perelman’s baroque linguistic sensibility. Mrs. Malaprop, Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s classic abuser of words, would certainly appreciate Professor Gipf, who tells Dolores Hornbostel in no uncertain terms that she “had better stop galvanizing around nights and pay attention!” W. A. Spooner, the namesake of the spoonerism (in which the initial sounds of words are unintentionally confused or reversed), could hardly improve on Perelman’s description of Professor Gompers, with his “grizzled chin and chiseled grin,” and could William Shakespeare have made a lowlier pun than the one that sings in Dolores Hornbostel’s mind as she is finally being wooed by...

(The entire section is 403 words.)