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ELT 36 : 1 1993 and, in view of his own desperate financial situation and probable loneliness, to distance himself emotionally from his work. He was already a professional. Some of the stories take place in rural England, remembered by the author from holidays and deemed of interest to American readers. Popular fiction of the day featured plots of remarkable complexity, and Gissing had the ingenuity to produce them, as readers of his later works well know. Many of the narratives involve coincidence and have striking endings. In "A Mother's Hope," set close enough to the Lake District to be appropriate to his Wordsworthian theme, a long-lost father arrives just too late to kiss his child before her death. In "A Test of Honor," an ex-convict returns home to a cold greeting from his unloving and embarrassed wife, and his banishment by her brings sorrow to his more forgiving daughter. In "Too Wretched to Live," a man about to be married learns that the girl he jilted for his bride-to-be has drowned herself. These and other stories suggest that unconsciously Gissing was reworking in fiction parts of his own troubled past. In a highly perceptive comment, Selig notes that if Gissing had ever confronted directly "the explosive mixture of sex and petty crime that had almost ruined him... he might well have written his most extraordinary work." It is too much to expect that he should have done so during his American exile. His achievement there was to write saleable fiction in desperate conditions, and as this volume shows, far more of it than we have recognized. Martha S. Vogeler California State University, Fullerton Stories by E. F. Benson E. F. Benson. Desirable Residences and Other Stories. Selected by Jack Adrian. New York: Oxford University Press, 1991. xv + 278 pp. $22.95 ITS ALMOST but not quite the real thing. There are certainly pleasures to be taken in the fluid and dangerous language. There is the high styling of character and scene, the anticipated bitchiness, the camp, but not quite enough. Given the amount of Benson's fiction in print, it is not entirely clear why this collection was put together. The title story, for example, is billed as a new Miss Mapp story, and that is accurate as far as it goes, for it, among 25 of the 27 stories printed here, has never been reprinted since its first magazine publication, in this case Good Housekeeping, 1929. But it is, in fact, an entirely familiar story, its mechanism, the summertime rite of musical houses whereby Miss Mapp 80 BOOK REVIEWS lets hers for a high rate, then moves down the scale and rents Diva Plaistow's at a lower rate, and Diva.... In Lucia and Mapp, two years later, this device is used brilliantly. It is the means for Lucia's entry into Tilling, it positions most of the major players and its consequences extend through the fiction. It both generates local comic effects and sets up the diluvian climax. In the "new" story, however, one has simply the well-oiled mechanism of Miss Mapp outsmarting and being outsmarted. It works well enough, it's fun, but it uses itself up in the telling, the more so because it recalls so precisely its next appearance. The collection is varied. There are two early Dodo stories (1896-1897), several Amy Bondham ones from the twenties (she is a kind of Lucia/ Mapp composite whose assaults on society are conducted with almost military precision but not always with success), various other satiric takes, some acerb, some sentimental, on the titled, the fatuous and the rich, some ghost stories, a few bizarre sketches. Together they represent nearly forty years of Benson's writing, most culled from the periodicals he normally wrote for, particularly Windsor Magazine, but also The Storyteller, Pearson's Magazine, and, during the Edwardian period, Lady's Realm. The volume has a bit of apparatus, consisting of a reasonably informative but slight introduction by Jack Adrian and a checklist of dates and places of publication. It is a collection largely for Bensonites (I confess myself lapsed, although not apostate), but there are relatively few genuine additions...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 80-82
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Archived
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