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Bet They'll Miss Us When We're Gone

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Bet They'll Miss Us When We're Gone

Current Status:
In Season
Marianne Wiggins
Fiction, Short Stories

We gave it a C+

It was Marianne Wiggins’ misfortune to have her last book, the justly praised novel John Dollar, overshadowed by terrorism. Wiggins was married at the time to Salman Rushdie, whose Satanic Verses earned him a death threat from Islamic fundamentalists and a million dollars’ worth of publicity. Too bad that John Dollar had to appear just then. And too bad that Wiggins’ new collection of stories in Bet They’ll Miss Us When We’re Gone does not show her at her best. While they display her knack for capturing nutty family dynamics and her ear for ingenious wordplay, these stories are too frequently arch and self-conscious. Wiggins’ efforts at mimicking foreign accents (”Zelf-Portret”) and local blue-collarisms are unconvincing, and her fancier experiments seem no more than fashionably academic. The author’s naturally beguiling voice surfaces in less tortured tales, like ”Angel,” in which an abandoned child devises a gestural language with her Greek-speaking grandmother, or ”Rex,” about three sisters’ frantic search for their mother. Some of these stories were written while Wiggins and Rushdie were in hiding. Many are about gridlocked communication and strangers in strange lands. Most are too laboriously enigmatic to satisfy. C+