Both Ways is the Only Way I want it
by Maile Meloy
Canongate 2010, Paperback
First collection? No
Awards: one of New York Times Book Review 10 Best Books 2009
Maile Meloy is
the author of the story collection Half
the novels Liars
Meloy’s stories have been published in The
and other publications, and she has received The
Aga Khan Prize for Fiction, the PEN/ Malamud Award, the Rosenthal
Foundation Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and a
Guggenheim Fellowship. In 2007, she
chosen as one of Granta’s
Young American Novelists.
She lives in Los Angeles.
with Maile meloy
he couldn't keep her from his own brother. She might need bone marrow
someday, he told himself. She might need a kidney. Also there was the
fact that Claire loved her uncle.
Reviewed by Sara Crowley
collection of 11 stories is threaded throughout with an exploration
of some of the many disappointments life can offer. It appears to be
a look at how we all potentially fail each other – parents - their
children, lovers - one another, children - their parents, and so it
opening story is Travis, B. Awkward misfit Chet Moran drifts
into an adult education night class and falls for the teacher, Beth
Travis. Beth has found herself in the awkward position of having to
drive for nine and a half hours to teach the class, and then drive
back to her day job. It's an untenable set-up and sets the tone for
the collection. Even Chet's attempt to woo her feels half-hearted.
is the first of Meloy's male protagonists; just three of the stories
have main characters that are female. The men here are basically good
guys, but they want more. Meloy doesn't show us simple black and
white, right and wrong, her characters are complex, their desires are
The Children Fielding "held his wife and felt himself
anchored to everything that was safe and sure, and kept for himself
the knowledge of how quickly he could let go and drift free."
doesn't stop these male hearts capacity from pining and longing for
the love of a woman. In Agustin feelings are reawakened when
the title character re-encounters his lost love, Inez Martin.
were lines around the dark eyes he had loved, and the skin over her
temples seemed very thin and pale, with a blue vein visible on one
side, but she had the same pointed chin, the same clever mouth. His
heart was racing. He hadn't expected to have all the old feelings in
their full strength. He had thought they would be diminished by
Two-Step although the story is told by Naomi and is set in her
friend Alice's kitchen, it is Alice's nameless husband who looms
large and dominates. "I thought he was a genius when I married
him." "It's him…" "He's coming home." "He
likes you…" "He had the intelligence that physically
beautiful people have, because other people confide in them, but he
had real intelligence, too. It was irresistible, even when he was
acting indefensibly, as he was now." A slightly predictable
story is made fascinating as we watch the characters react in
titles of the stories are simple and clear, as are the narratives.
Travis, B is about Beth Travis; Lovely Rita is about a
woman called Rita; Liliana and Agustin are about
Liliana and Agustin. The Girlfriend is the girlfriend of a
criminal; O Tannenbaum is ostensibly about the procurement of
a Christmas tree.
begins with "When Valentine was nine, her mother's new lover
took them one night to a bonfire the college kids had at the lake."
And goes on to explore not only the mother's relationship with her
new lover, Carlo, but also Valentine's first kiss and first crush.
There is great economy in the telling and things left unsaid are as
important as those spoken.
and tenderness are this collections strengths and Meloy uses both to
dig deep into the human psyche and reveal those human moments of
wanting it all, the wife and the lover, the money and
the dignity, the family and the peace. It is only after
finishing all the stories that one sees how fitting a title Both
Ways Is The Only Way I Want It is.