I really don't get a lot of contemporary short fiction. As I understand it, fiction should have a clear beginning, middle and end. All too often modern authors can only accomplish one 1 or 2 of those. Mary Gordon is hit or miss in this regard.
One of the stories in this collection is called "My Podiatrist Tells Me a Story About a Boy and a Dog". A woman with a plantar's wart goes to a podiatrist for treatment and at every visit the doctor tells her a funny story. One day he tells her about a dog he had as a boy who turned out to be a wolf. Then he says he'd like to tell her more stories, but he won't be seeing her again because her feet are healed. What?
I ask you, what kind of story is that? Stupid...that's what kind.
The very first story is about a woman who has become disenchanted with her family and her life and gradually grows a fascination for the lifestyle of her dirty, mean neighbor. He rejects her and she goes home. Okay, beginning, middle and end...but who cares?
Those are just the first two of 41 stories, so I turned to a random story in the middle called "I Need to Tell Three Stories and To Speak of Love and Death". The narrator tells us three stories and two of them have to do with love and death, but the third is about -and I wish I was making this up- the time an Indian woman pooped on the floor of the locker room at her gym! What the...? How in the heck is that a story of love and/or death?
After that revolting and mildly racist little story, I decided that Mary Gordon and I needed to part ways. And it's a shame because she writes very well, with quite accessible and descriptive prose, but until she learns to give a story a proper ending, I won't be reading her again.