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The Way That Water Enters Stone: Stories Paperback – January 1, 1997
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About the Author
John Dufresne is the author of ten previous books, including two fiction writing guides. A professor in the MFA program at Florida International University, he lives in Dania Beach.
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These stories are good in the way all good stories are good--memorable characters, inventive yet (mostly) believable situations, anchored but not overdrawn places, and superb writing. Yet this doesn't say anything about Dufresne's fine work here. There's everything here from a 43 page story about a man cursed, according to those in the local parish, with a genetic blight which ultimately he cannot escape ("The Fontana Gene"), to a 5 page story about the razing of a beloved tomato garden ("The Surveyors"), and so much in between. Some stories are set in Louisiana, others in Massachusetts and one in Florida. They are not grouped geographically, so you have to be aware of the leaps from story to story, yet many of these characters seem of a piece, or as if they knew each other. They are united in their aloneness, and how easily they let slip away the person or thing that might have saved them.
The reason for the "Dubliners" comparison is this. In the way that it depicts Ireland as dark but sparked occasionally by remarkable people, so does Dufresne here depict America. He writes from America's dusty corners--Louisiana parishes soaked thoroughly in Catholocism and despair, Massachusetts after the tourist season ends, with the cold coming on and things closing up, and Belle Glade, Florida, about as bleak a place as anyone could find. Yet some of the characters in these stories, like those in "Dubliners," find ways to live against their circumstances and in spite of their locales. A few of the stories are rough in places, but the easier ones apply salve in between to keep you steady. All in all, worth the scrapes.