Rezension Kurzgeschichten: A Hand Reached Down to Guide Me, von David Gates (2015) – 6 Sterne – mit Pressestimmen


Elf Geschichten haben je zehn bis 20 Seiten, meist Auftragsarbeiten für Paris Review, GQ und The New Yorker seit 2001. Nur die Geschichte Banishment ist deutlich länger. (Eine ähnliche, noch geschlossenere Struktur hat Gates‘ frühere Kurzgeschichtensammlung The Wonders of the Invisible World, 1999.)

Fazit:

David Gates schreibt intelligent über Intelligente, die intelligent reden, aber sich unklug wieder und wieder in den Abgrund saufen und rauchen. Das ewige Ehebrechen, Drogenschlucken und die vielen ältere Männern mit zugewandten jüngeren Gespielinnen ermüden. Einige Kurzgeschichten wirken wie hingerotzt, ohne Rücksicht aufs Leserverständnis, der Ton ist mitunter vulgär oder eiskalt – Gates schlechtestes Buch bisher.

Ältere Herren:

Die Sammlung erschien, als Gates fast 70 war. Gleich die ersten zwei Geschichten zeigen eindrucksvolle Männer um 70, die sich weitaus jüngere, attraktive Frauen angeln. Mindestens sechs weitere Texte beschreiben virile Rentner – meist locker erfolgreich, sogar begehrt beim jüngeren weiblichen Geschlecht.

Das Autorenfoto der hinteren Umschlagklappe zeigt Gates mit weißem Hemingway-Bart, und exakt diese Figur begegnet wiederholt als homme à femmes in den Geschichten. So beglückt eine junge Frau, „slinky-limbed“, einen „lean man in his sixties with a trimmed white beard“ im „bedroom“ (S. 138 der Serpent’s Tail-Ausgabe); eine Mittvierzigerin denkt über ihren Vater (S. 280):

He’d trimmed his white beard so nicely… He was still a beautiful man. Objectively.

Trotz angedeuteter Selbstironie, hier tröpfelt streng riechend die Altherrenfantasie, fast schon so unangenehm wie bei Updike oder Walser in ihren späten Jahren, James Salter ist zurückgenommener.

Immerhin, Gates macht seine Altersgruppe nicht durchgehend zu Don Juans. Ein älterer Herr wird abgewiesen, ein anderer muss nachhelfen (Seite 260):

I’d dropped a blue pill and could feel my face starting to get red. I didn’t always take one, but i was fifty-nine and she was forty-four…

Dieses Rentnerjiepern und die neuen spiritistischen Töne – Toten-Erscheinungen in mindestens zwei Geschichten – machen A Hand Reached Down to Guide Me weniger attraktiv als alle früheren Gates-Bücher, dazu das ewige Ehebrechen samt uro- und gynäkologischen Details im Terminator-Ton. Die Ostküsten-Schauplätze, der nüchterne Sex und das Ehebrechen erinnern auch an den fast zeitgleich erschienenen Roman All That Is von James Salter, der die Ereignisse aber weniger mechanistisch schildert.

Sarkasmus:

Andere Gates-Konstanten bleiben erhalten oder werden weiterentwickelt: Die Beziehungen kriseln in Vororten und Käffern des US-Nordostens; die infinitesimalsarkastischen Sentenzen klingen allenfalls noch zugespitzter als bisher; die Story-Einstiege wirken vielleicht noch einen Tick abrupter – man muss alles etwas länger verarbeiten, zum Glück liegt es in Schriftform vor. Alle parlieren wieder gebildet über Literatur und Musik, konsumieren dann jedoch verbotene Substanzen ausgerechnet vor Autofahrten und wichtigen Terminen: eine billige Art, Spannung zu erzeugen und wenig plausibel.

Die 20- bis 35jährigen Frauen in diesen Geschichten sind lässig Ehebruch-, Drogen und Altherren-affin und wiederholt teil-lesbisch (The Wonders of the Invisible World hat dagegen mehr schwule Paare).

Self-destructive, jealous, spiteful, sexual, snobbish, druggie, fiendish and breathtakingly awful…“ – die Kritiker:

Financial Times:

Gates’s cast is largely drawn from educated New York émigrés fleeing failing marriages and careers to settle in provincial towns. Wearied by restaurants that overcook the pasta and neighbours who have never heard of Morton Feldman, they quip and quote obsessively to their surroundings only to be mocked by the hollow, answering echo… “Alcorian A-1949” is told in a voice so insidiously nasty and genially confiding that the pages almost turn themselves

New York Times 1:

A smart book about smart, articulate people who get in their own way again and again, engaging in episodic festivals of bad decisions and then talking about their plight with arresting candor, in language rife with humor and allusion. Many of Gates’s characters are polished professionals, well into the second acts of their lives… It’s hard to get a straight answer from any of these clever people; happily, there’s always wiggle room for a double meaning. The entire book is rich in that regard, with not a lazy phrase on view… many brilliant older men in this book. They know art, literature, culture — and that they themselves are old. It’s part of their wily charm

New York Times 2:

Malice and goodness duke it out in the dark hearts of David Gates’s characters. The malice comes in endless varieties — conscious, buried, self-destructive, jealous, spiteful, sexual, snobbish, druggie, fiendish and breathtakingly awful, to name only a few. The goodness is more limited… a new, improved Baedeker to the aging academic’s methods of inflicting havoc on himself and anyone around him… devastatingly original, apparently firsthand dispatches from the heart of darkness. It’s a place he seems to know well… these stories are best read separately and slowly. They have too much in common to be allowed to run together. Many of his characters are manipulative older men who think that captivating younger women will truly rejuvenate them. Academics who came of age in the 1970s, familiar as they are with marijuana, are shocked again and again by the potency of the new stuff

Kirkus Review:

Well-off souls hitting the skids thanks to divorce, illness, self-medication, or some combination thereof… a knack for burrowing into the lives of affluent, culturally savvy types… Sometimes these stories strain credulity to attain their effect of domestic collapse, never worse than the moment when a doctor’s druggy children take revenge on his new wife in “A Secret Station” by taking a chainsaw to the Thanksgiving turkey. Gates is a graceful and penetrating writer about people who are stuck in a rut. But the rhythms and emotional temperature of these stories have a stubborn sameness of their own. A well-turned but overly familiar sequence of domestic dramas

The New Yorker:

Gates turns a clear yet compassionate eye on a motley crew of characters who cheat, drink, snort, and lie their way through the autumn of their lives. “You get to a point where you can’t do anything about who you are anymore,” one says. The result is a moving account of flawed existence.

Pop Matters:

So many adulterers in the stories… Gates peppers many stories with educated, pompous protagonists who rattle off cultural trivia and references to classical music and literature, showing carefree pretentiousness over sincerity

The Daily Beast:

Full of Gates’s laser prose, his pitch-perfect dialogue, and his usual wised-up, broken-down, unmoored characters… His characters are smart, erratic, and self-sabotaging, thirsty for spiritual (as opposed to religious) nourishment. They tend to drink too much and/or smoke too much weed… A unifying theme in their lives is the near-impossibility of forging truly happy relationships that last… the aging bucks all tend to sound like John Huston after his third martini. But that’s a minor point

Spectator:

If you think Lucia Berlin is wry and jaded, wait until you read the nihilist Gates. There’s a callous, coarse lovelessness running through the heart of his stories. To be married is to be unloved; to be fancied is to be attained and then to be unloved. Gates has a beard and runs a writing seminar in Montana: this could be enough to put you off. I usually avoid writers who teach writing, fearing they’ll be showcasing the techniques they teach. But Gates has converted me. His prose fizzes with life-enhancing detailHis protagonists are old, world-weary, eloquent, steeped in Eng lit, and mostly failures

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