4 out of 4 stars
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[Note: This is a re-review; a different review of this book by me has also been published earlier. ]
How might love inspire you? What lengths would you go to for love? How would you catch up with an old flame if a stroke had left you unable to talk? That situation is the premise of "Cinderella", one of the tales in the fiction anthology The Inquisition and Other Stories by Michael Tabor. The stories star poets and their muses, artists and their models, old flames and newly kindled romances. The settings range from Victorian England to Nazi Germany to unremarkable offices in the present-day United States.
So the diversity of this collection was a delight. I was also impressed by the author's erudition. As well as demonstrating medical knowledge in "Cinderella" and "The Inquisition", he conducts readers to the worlds of the great paintings in the Art Institute of Chicago in "Blue Guitar". Meanwhile, he serves up a tasting menu in "Table Talk". In that story, a waiter shares the details of each meticulously crafted course with his wife Amy, not forgetting the perfect wine pairings. But what really intrigues Amy is the mysterious figure of Robin who features in the diners' conversations as relayed to her by her husband. When the truth was revealed, I was as broadsided by the plot twist as I was moved by the narrator's love for Amy.
Indeed, Tabor's mastery of that short story staple, the dramatic pivot at the end, was on full display in this collection. The best of these twists made me dizzy. A story featuring a spectacular example of one of these, "Russell Square", was fewer than ten pages long, also demonstrating Tabor's gift for conciseness. Some endings were not quite as striking, meaning that those stories had less impact. However, all of the stories without exception were written in vivid, sensual prose, with characters that popped off the page and dialogue that rang true to life. Besides love, there were many other underlying themes such as the tension between art and reality, and individuals' preoccupation with avoiding the fate of becoming a nobody.
In that connection, words and their meanings were important, and many titles represented a play on words. This contributed to the extraordinary uniqueness of every short story in this polished work so that I have no reason to give it anything less than a perfect rating. I rate this book a richly deserved four out of four stars.
I recommend it to those who enjoy short fiction. It would be a good fit for those with some knowledge of classical literature and art but could also be enjoyed by those who would learn something from it. Owing to quite frequent profanity and sexual references, this is more appropriate for a mature audience.
The Inquisition and Other Stories
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