Loves And Entanglements Stories

A volume of short stories explores the hidden but explosive nuances of romantic longing.

In this assemblage of more than a dozen tales, Bogaty limns the fraught eccentricities that plague relationships between men and women with a perspicacious eye. In the first story, “Obsessed,” a married couple, Carol and Gary, meet a friend named Kempton for dinner. Kempton lives a soap-operatic personal life, one in which he is perpetually “at war with his corporate existence,” clinging fecklessly to his youth. But as messy and infantile as his romantic travails are, Carol can’t help but wonder if Gary is jealous of the adventurous uncertainty of these escapades. In “Hot and Sour,” Veronica, a 22-year-old woman, falls in love with Josh, a married man twice her age. After hearing Josh lie to his wife with alarming expertise, she frets that her relationship with him is fated to devolve into a humiliating cliche. The stories focus on the foibles of attraction and the daunting distance that exists between erotic longing and a healthy, sustainable union, a theme intelligently expressed by the author. The pieces often have a literary element to them—protagonists are sometimes students of English literature, and the stories include lots of references to works such as John Milton’s Areopagitica and Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park. While the stories include some allusions to their political backdrops—e.g., mentions of President Richard Nixon and the Iraq War—they remain only asides. Bogaty concentrates on the hyper-personal, which seems, in his vivid cosmos, largely sequestered from the political arena, though in one story, “Namby-Pamby,” political differences likely contribute to a couple’s romantic failure.

One charming aspect of the tales is the way in which they are dated—the author began publishing them in the 1980s. In “Obsessed,” Carol is purposefully set on getting the most out of her therapy sessions, given that they cost a whopping $75 each. But the author makes some missteps—“Obsessed” concludes with a commentary by Carol that gives the story a didactic tincture, one that only serves to undermine the tale’s power by commandeering readers’ interpretive territory. It doesn’t help that the conclusion—that the apparent movement of life toward a climactic peak is often an illusion, the “false hints of shape flattening into time gone by formlessly”—is somewhat trite. In “Namby-Pamby,” Steven melodramatically explains to Brandy, a former flame, why he could never make their relationship work, a characteristic flaw of Bogaty’s writing: “Did you ever stop and ponder a jar of vinegar and oil?… No, I’m serious. You can stir it and shake it and it turns into a lovely mix, for a moment. But that’s it. You have to keep stirring and shaking forever to get the moments.” This image strikes a false note, one that feels not just maudlin, but also literarily contrived. Still, despite these occasional indulgences, the volume deftly displays an admirable sensitivity to the human frailty that always accompanies love.

An impressively thoughtful and compelling collection of tales.

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Author: Lewis Bogaty

Page Count: 210

Rating: 4.8 Stars

Reviewer: Mary Owens

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