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A Hand Reached Down to Guide Me: Stories and…
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A Hand Reached Down to Guide Me: Stories and a novella

by David Gates

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A Hand Reached Down to Guide Me by David Gates is comprised of a novella and eleven short stories, each written about events that could easily be read as non-fiction, however this is indeed fiction. Gates’ writing style is unique and while I prefer a more lengthy writing style, it did not take me long to become accustom to his more choppy, short sentenced style. The eleven stories along with the novella are interesting, however the stories are neither uplifting nor inspiring, rather more about the affects of poor life choices by mainly intelligent and well off characters. I never felt a connection to any of the characters, however I did enjoy the stories, at least as well as one could enjoy self-destructive stories of individuals and families. A Hand Reached Down to Guide Me is the first work I have read of Gates’ and I will definitely look into his other works. As far as this collection of short stories goes, if one enjoys short stories and is prepared for a less than cheery read, this may be the book for you. ( )
  knittingmomof3 | Apr 15, 2015 |
These are not happy little stories. Not that stories need to be happy, of course, but these are depressing in the “this is how life is” kind of way. These are upper class people, for the most part- academics, artists, writers, architects- all people who are well educated. These are people who read Shakespeare to unwind and are too high brow to watch TV- even public TV. These are also people who are very self-aware, which makes you wonder why they continue with their self-destructive behaviors, knowing where it will lead them.

For these are people who seem to be all about sex and drugs and alcohol- but no rock and roll; they listen only to classical. Or perhaps some early jazz. They never met an impulse they didn’t like, and they follow through on them pretty much every time. A lot of the main characters are fighting against aging, and the disappointment of not having lived the lives they feel they deserved. They will not go gently into that good night; they will go staggering and slurring, with bottles of Viagra clutched in their hands as they reach for the next young sexual conquest, talking wittily the whole while.

The stories are arranged in a progression; they work their way through sex, to drugs and alcohol, and finally make it to illness and death. Only the last story-the title story, the death story- ends on a hopeful note, with people acting for the long run rather than the immediate impulse. The characters are nearly interchangeable story to story; person who fails in their profession, aging person trying to hold back time by having sex with younger people, person who has spouse but can’t resist having sex with other people, person who drinks too much/does speed/does heroin/smokes too much pot. I suppose the point of the stories is that we’re all, even the most respected of us, animals when it comes down to it.

The stories may be devoid of likable characters, but they are brilliantly written, rather as if noir was written by intellectuals. I think the self-awareness of the narrators makes the stories different from most. They compel a person to keep reading; it’s like being held by a tale at a cocktail party, held by an ancient mariner in tweed. ( )
  lauriebrown54 | Apr 14, 2015 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0385351534, Hardcover)

These eleven stories, along with a masterful novella, mark the triumphant return of David Gates, whom New York magazine anointed "a true heir to both Raymond Carver and John Cheever."

Gates's characters, young or old or neither, are well educated, broadly knowledgeable, often creative and variously accomplished, whether as a doctor or a composer, an academic or a journalist. And every one of them carries a full supply of the human condition: parents in assisted-living--or assisted-dying--facilities, too many or too few people in their families and marriages, the ties that bind a sometimes messy knot, age an implacable foe, impulses pulling them away from comfort into distraction or catastrophe. Terrifyingly self-aware, they refuse to go gently--even when they're going nowhere fast, in settings that range across the metropolitan and suburban Northeast to the countryside upstate and in New England. 

Relentlessly inventive, alternatively hilarious and tragic, always moving, this book proves yet again that Gates's stories, as The Boston Globe concluded, "have something for which many fiction writers would make a pact with any sort of devil--utter authenticity."

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:18 -0400)

A Hand Reached Down to Guide Me is populated by characters, young or old or neither, who are well educated, broadly knowledgeable, often creative and variously accomplished, whether as a doctor or a composer, an academic or a journalist. And every one of them carries a full supply of the human condition: parents in assisted-living-or assisted-dying-facilities, too many or too few people in their families and marriages, the ties that bind a sometimes messy knot, age an implacable foe, impulses pulling them away from comfort into distraction or catastrophe. Terrifyingly self-aware, they refuse to go gently-even when they're going nowhere fast, in settings that range across the metropolitan and suburban Northeast to the countryside of upstate New York and New England.… (more)

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