Raymond Willimas' Border Country is a superb novel. I'm surprised that it's not better known. How does one measure the lives of an individual and their community? Social science and theory render them abstract and general, like the mountaintop view of a farming valley, but a novel, such as this, can describe the minute but all-important particulars. The style is plain, as befits the "blunt truculence" of this Welsh village on the border with England, but it is always evocative; so much is said by not being said. The occasional lyricism takes off from the road and soar into the air. How does Matthew/Will Price go home after leaving it for London and a university lectureship? In his own words: "Only now it seems the end of exile. Not going back, but the feeling of exile ending. For the distance is measured, and that is what matters. By measuring the distance, we come home."

The stories in Diane Oliver's Neighbors just got stronger and stronger as I read. The first ones are well-constructed, but the later ones are truly complex, evocative, even strange. I'm thinking not just of the experimental style of "Frozen Voices," but of the the deep complexity of theme and treatment in "When the Apples Are Ripe," "Traffic Jam," and ""No Brown Sugar in Anybody's Milk."" "Spiders Cry Without Tears," a long story tracing the complicated course of interracial love, touches Alice Munro in its depiction of human ambivalence and compromise. Diane Oliver was born in 1943 and died in 1966 at the young age of 22. What a writer she could have been, had she lived longer.


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