The Dream Lover, By William Boyd

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The Independent Culture

In the introduction to this collection of previously published short stories from the first half of his career, William Boyd describes how, having heeded for a while the usual advice to aspiring writers, success arrived only when he took to writing about worlds and idioms with which he was unfamiliar. Accordingly, these stories are set in locales around the globe. And there's one about a London taxi dispatcher who invents a fantasy life for himself in Brazil. If there can be said to be a common thread, it's nothing more than the infinite vagaries of the human heart and the complexities of the mind.

"Bizarre Situations" involves crimes and passions the unreliable narrator can only dimly comprehend. Compare this with "Hardly Ever", a story about the overwhelming but entirely straight-forward lusts of grammar-school boys. All that links them is their erudition, refined prose-style and precisely honed form.