Winters’ Tales

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Five theme sections divide this book. Beginning with a section entitled “Unusual Stories,” the reader is thrust immediately into Winters’ wild imagination. Yet, the unusualness is not contained in this one section alone; the four following sections (Animal Tales; Voices; Of Men and War; Observations) are equally bizarre.

For the most part, the stories are undeveloped; Winters employs a stream-of-consciousness technique. Thoughts wander. Too often, Winters interjects a belated idea with “Oh, and another thing.....” These misplaced thoughts distract the reader rather than highlight an idea; they reinforce the lack of focus and continuity.

Descriptions are cliched, stories empty, and endings abrupt. The reader feels cheated knowing who the author is and expecting the same humor in print. Winters has an unsurpassed ability to tell a story in person, but the stories fall flat in prose without his one-of-a-kind facial expressions (his forever-twitching eyebrows) and his personification of characters--the key elements that give life to his imagination, however distorted it may be.

One would like to believe that if Winters could read these stories aloud, in his marvelous manner, they somehow would sound creative, or at least credible. Yet, although the book obliquely provides an interesting commentary on Winters, it is obvious that it is his celebrity status--not the merit of the stories themselves-- that enabled this book to be published.

While the collection as a whole is a decided failure, there is a range of achievement among the individual stories. At one end of the spectrum, a particularly offensive story, “A Well-Kept Secret,” describes a transvestite grandson who seduces his own grandfather, while at the other end, a classic and very funny tale entitled “A Baby-Sitter and Why They’re Weird or Turn Weird,” answers the “Why?” question for inquisitive children when adult and child logic differ.

In his introduction (which is more poignant than any of his stories), Winters encourages adults to nurture the child within themselves; imagination, for Winters, is synonymous with freedom. What works for Winters in this book, however, does not necessarily work for the reader.