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Maile Meloy – Both Ways Is The Only Way I Want It

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A thin volume of short stories based on desire.

Publisher: Cannon & Gate
Pages: 219
Type: Fiction
Age: Adult
ISBN: 978-1-84767-416-6
First Published: 2010
Date Reviewed: 8th October 2010
Rating: 3.5/5

There are several stories in this book, each taken from various newspaper and magazine publications where Meloy has had her work showcased.

Ever since her fantastic debut, Liars And Saints, Meloy has favoured the publication of short stories over novels. Her second novel, which was a different version of Liars And Saints and set said book as a dream, was poorly received by her readers, and is out of print. It seems the short story is the way to go, however I can’t help but think that Meloy’s light is an artificial one because these short story collections are based on work already published.

It’s no secret that I love Meloy’s writing, she has a truly unique style: at once both simple and very detailed. She is so unique that selecting her work from a box of many papers would be easy. But something that she doesn’t do very well is the climax. Meloy’s style is breezy and she favours short dips into someone’s life, leaving them before she’s fully made her mark. Because of the writing style you can find yourself engrossed quickly so it’s a shock when each story ends. Although her novels are more involved still there is that element in them.

I do take issue with one of the elements she always employs, and that is sex. I can’t say I’ve read anything by Meloy where there is a good solid relationship and healthy sex; she is fascinated by infidelity, relationships bordering on incest (by “bordering” I mean cousin with cousin, although when it happens those involved believe they are uncle and niece), and the idea of orgies. While I understand that may be her preference it doesn’t give me a very good impression of her as a person; and furthering that there is something she always omits – Meloy doesn’t like to have people apologising and admitting what they’ve done when they’ve hurt people. And the whole infidelity idea is used in pretty much every story here.

This becomes a more general problem when you realise that most of the stories are actually the same. There are one or two that don’t expressly deal with sex (in fact one is about a grandmother and very funny) and these become the two that stand out. Unfortunately Meloy is in a rut where she’s using the same formulas and the same structures repeatedly, just changing minor details to make them appear different.

You may be wondering why I’ve given the book a good rating after all this. Because she is so adept at storytelling in the way she uses words, although the content may be uncomfortable one can’t help but still be enthralled. Meloy is a second novel genius waiting to happen. Now she just has to find her subject.

Both Ways Is The Only Way I Want It is the perfect title for this collection. I’m not sure I’d recommend reading it all in one sitting but it is a good example of literary fiction that will delight the reader in you and cause the rest of you to think.

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October 28, 2010, 12:02 am

Hmm. I’ve been thinking about reading Both Ways is the Only Way I Want It, but I’m not so sure now. Maybe I’ll start with Liars and Saints…I’m not a big short story fan anyway.

Charlie: I’d definitely recommend Liars And Saints over her other books (I’ve read some of the stories of Half In Love). The length allows her talent to shine.

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