Leonard Michaels: Sylvia

Asylum

Leonard Michaels (1933 – 2003) is one of those writers who has attained minor icon status in the USA (his fiction is published there by a classics imprint) but has never really taken off in the UK. In his introduction to this book – its first British publication – David Lodge suggests that this is because Michaels’ “concentrated, genre-busting” stories, widely considered to be the best of his work, “were challengingly unfamiliar in content and form, written with an intensity that demanded a corresponding effort from the reader.” For example his story ‘City Boy’, included in The Paris Review’s Object Lessons anthology as one of “the greatest short stories of the past sixty years”, mixes realism and fantasy without distinction. His late stories about mathematician Nachman (“People called Nachman Nachman, as if he were a historical figure”) are semi-comic scenes from a life and the “high point of [his] career”

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