Time with Children

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Perhaps the most impressive achievement of this relatively young writer is her regional range. She writes about the Southwest, specifically New Mexico, with all the authority of an old desert rat. Pages later the reader finds her dealing with the Jamesian subject of Americans in London with a sophistication and impishness all her own.

While the settings provide diversity to the collection, a unifying theme-- the struggles inherent in relationships between younger and older people--is woven into all the stories. A father frightened for the safety of his son watches him neatly execute the rescue of a pair of drenched canoeists; a young girl is pushed to the floor of her older lover’s pickup truck to avoid the gaze of the man’s wife as her car and the truck pass each other on an isolated desert road; an American wife in London, engaged in an affair with a young British playwright, watches his former girlfriend go through a pathetic maneuver to win him back. Both the mature and the immature lie. Tallent is fascinated by the love and hate that seem to feed on the lying.

The reader’s finest pleasure in these stories may very well come from their precision of observation. At times Tallent overdoes it, so that, brilliant as the detail may be, it does little to propel the story. This is the case, somewhat ironically, in her shortest sketches, where detail is everything. In the story about the pickup truck, the manure on her lover’s boot is off-key as a sign of their relationship, but the eighteen-year-old heroine must observe it. Her creator could not resist the detail.