Bookmarks Issue: 
William Boyd


A-FascinationOne story in Boyd’s new collection begins and ends with the word "angst." Another is interspersed with VCR commands, like "pause" and "fast-forward." All 14 stories play with structure and style, exploring the limits of art and the often twisted lives of those who create it. With such characters as a down-and-out director scribbling in a notebook, a performance artist who photographs feet, and an architect having a nervous breakdown on an airplane, Boyd delivers a sardonic take on creativity and the struggle to achieve, maintain, or even fake it.
Knopf. 277 pages. $24. ISBN: 1400043204

Boston Globe 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Boyd’s prose style has the economy and power of a line drawing by Matisse. … [He] leaves room for us to enter, so that each story is a script to be played out in the little theater of our imagination."
Ann Harleman

San Diego Union-Tribune 3.5 of 5 Stars
"With few exceptions these stories are as robust as his novels, and if space prohibits the (sometimes overly) clever plot twists of the novels, Boyd compensates with a staggering variety of narrative techniques that help propel the stories with grace and economy." Scott Leibs

Miami Herald 2 of 5 Stars
"Fascination would make a good creative writing manual. But if your wish is to be entertained or enlightened, wait until you can borrow this book from your local library." Ariel Gonzalez

NY Times Book Review 1 of 5 Stars
"Boyd may assume that simply putting us in his characters’ heads—most of these stories are in the first person—will ensure our investment in what happens to them; if so, it’s a miscalculation. But if he means to keep them at an ironic distance from us, then we need some other reward for reading on …"
David Gates

Critical Summary

All but the most diehard fans of postmodernism will likely find Boyd’s formal idiosyncrasies jarring. His abrupt changes in style and experimental narrative techniques prompted some critics to hail him as a virtuoso. Others felt that Fascination lacked the conventional pleasures of plot and character—more than one reader found these tales of anguished artists tiresome. This collection is more likely to satisfy on an intellectual level than an emotional one; readers bothered by gimmicks would do well to stay away. For those interested in stretching the limits of the short story form, however, Fascination may live up to the promise of its title. For those who want to play it safe, check out Boyd’s Any Human Heart ( 4 of 5 Stars May/June 2003).