Maile Meloy is a young American writer I’d never heard of before my son gave me a book of her short stories for Christmas last year. I only got down to it recently in my beside pile. I was sorry I’d delayed reading it.
The title of the book “Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It”, taken from a short poem by A. R. Ammons, is the theme of her eleven short stories set mostly in Montana where she grew up. All the characters want it both ways in tricky emotional or sexual circumstances. All are caught in a dilemma of sorts. What is the socially or morally right thing to do versus what does the character want to do?
In “Travis B.”, a young ranch hand with a gimpy leg falls in love with a young lawyer who commutes 9 ½ hours to town to teach a class he chanced to wander into. In “Two-Step” female friends discuss one’s husband’s infidelity while the reader squirms realizing that the ‘other woman’ is one of them. The author doesn’t shy away from unsavory, slightly creepy motivations and feelings that are part of her characters' lives. The stories are layered and rich with details.
All the stories have a tension that makes the reader uneasy. The dialogue carries the story and makes the reader feel like a fly stuck to flypaper, wanting to leave, but compelled to stay. Having first observed particular details, the author paints her characters with a few deft strokes leaving an indelible impression on the reader. Her spare and fast-paced prose takes the reader along for a thrilling ride to a surprise conclusion.
Maile enjoys writing short stories where the way out leads to an ending that opens possibilities. She is the author of two story collections and two novels.
NPR Interview with Maile Meloy
The Writers Circle of Durham Blog: Reading As Writers
Copyright © 2010, Ruth Zaryski Jackson