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Mind and Body by Lucas Carpenter


Book cover

Mind and Body

Mind and Body is a series of short stories by Lucas Carpenter, a Professor of English at Oxford College, Emory University and an expert on subjects such as the poet, John Gould Fletcher. Here he writes fiction in the form of a series of short stories, largely based around appearances of a central character called Paul Rutledge. Indeed, I wonder if all the stories orbit around this central protagonist, with the earlier ones describing episodes in the lives of his forebears?

I would characterise all the stories as sharing one virtue and one flaw. The virtue is the writing. Without showing off, all of the stories are well-written, enticing to read without feeling dumbed down to mere pablum. However the flaw could also be characterised as a feature of the writing; all of them end inconclusively. The stories each have a beginning, a middle and… oh, here’s the next story. While Rutledge features in most of them, he is not always at the centre and even his own stories lack clear conclusions.

Possibly this is a deliberate conceit but, even if there is a second volume in the works, I would have been grateful if at least the final story landed gracefully rather than crashing to an end as if the author realised he had churned out enough words to meet his targets. Fascinating stories but lacking – and deserving – proper endings so only a muted acclamation from this corner.

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