Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It

by Maile Meloy

Paperback, 2010

Status

Available

Genres

Publication

Riverhead Books, (2010)

Description

Presents a volume of eleven short works that explores the complexity of life in austere landscapes of the American West, from the tale of a ranch hand who falls for a reluctant newcomer to the story of a young father who is shocked by the reappearance ofhis late grandmother.

User reviews

LibraryThing member EricKibler
This is an excellent collection of short stories. I found them very accessible, and gobbled this book down in short order.

Meloy's milieu, like Raymond Carver's, is the American Northwest, although there are some detours into other locales. The stories run the gamut from funny to poignant to downright creepy in tone, but are always compelling.

A lot of the stories have an undercurrent or a hint (sometimes more than a hint) of the danger that women and girls face from unpredictable male figures. I don't mean to say that the book is some feminist tract where the women are good and the men are bad. Most of the men in the book seem motivated by animal urges with civilized rationales superimposed over them, and Meloy shows sympathy and understanding of these urges and rationales. More often than not, she writes from the viewpoint of a male character. And the women are shown to participate willingly in these games of desire, giving themselves over to dangerous situations, and sometimes taking on the role of the predator. All in all, the stories are suspenseful and psychologically believable.

I think I'll be picking up some other books by Meloy before long.
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LibraryThing member ReadThisNotThat
I loved this book. But sometimes the most glowing book reviews are the hardest to write. There are only so many synonyms for amazing.

"It was great!" The end.

Maile Meloy's short stories are conflicting at their best moments. They are heartfelt and heartbreaking. They are triumphic and tragic. They are disturbing and delightful all at the same time. Meloy carefully crafts characters in a very short space and despite the brevity, as a reader I fell in love with her characters; I wanted to hug them and cheer for them. And then Meloy does what only the best writers can do without us getting angry with them...she leaves us hanging. Not entirely. Each story has enough of a conclusion that we can surmise what will happen next, but Meloy doesn't end any story with a neat little bow where all the ends are conveniently tied off and we can close the book with a satisfying snap. Each story leaves something (sometimes a little something, sometimes a lot of something) to the reader's imagination. We each know what we want to happen at the conclusion, but rarely does Meloy explicitly share those moments with us. We are left to our own devices, to marvel and wonder. And that is Meloy's genius. And why this is a short story collection worth rereading.… (more)
LibraryThing member porch_reader
What a wonderful collection of short stories! Let me tell it why I liked it. First, in this collection of short stories, each of the stories is tied together by a common thread. The main character is caught between two possibilities - fidelity and adultery, truth or lies, being a kid or being an adult. These may sound like run-of-the-mill topics, but in the hands of Meloy, they are not. There is no obvious direction, no proper choice. Both ways is the only way these characters want it, and although I met them only a few pages ago, I empathize with their dilemmas.

Second, the stories are written in straightforward, yet beautful prose. Meloy is writing about people like you and me, and the style that she uses to tell their stories is consistent with that. No flowery sentences here. Just clear, crisp writing, with every word chosen for a reason. What a joy to read! Meloy also does feel the need to wrap up these stories in neat packages. Instead, we spend time with the characters, often leaving them before a resolution has been reached.

I could tell you my favorite stories ("Red from Green," "Liliana," "O Tannenbaum," "The Children"), but it was really the eleven stories as a package that were so powerful. Each one different from the last, but each layering complexity to the choices that we face in life.

This is one of the best books I've read this year.
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LibraryThing member freddlerabbit
This book was curiously titillating - a collection of stories (I believe about protagonists who want it "both ways") about separate characters - and I kept feeling like the tale ended just when the story was getting really compelling! Meloy does a marvellous job of building up context and background and drama in a very small space, of drawing in the reader - and then leaving her hanging. I suppose each reader would have different feelings about whether any particular story is more or less realistic or likely; but I'd also guess most readers would find all the stories along a spectrum of likelihood, and the title, rather than being a toss-away, comes back to provoke thoughts about what it really means to want something "both ways" - to be poised on the tension of a choice.… (more)
LibraryThing member DirkHurst
Read the first story in the short story collection. Set in Montana. Spare story of a cowboy and a woman teaching a law-school class to non-lawyers. It stayed with me. Treads E. Annie Proulx territory without her flourish. The story, or almost the lack of story, is what matters. Some how that seems to peak under to see the heart of people.… (more)
LibraryThing member klburnside
This book is a collection of short stories, and a few of the stories were good, but overall I was disappointed. The writing wasn't outstanding and I was never really all that interested in the stories. I thought the author did a good job capturing the reality of the human condition, but it was almost too realistic. The characters rarely had any life realizations and many of them were stuck in their semi-miserable states of being throughout the course of the story, with no hope of change. I appreciate realistic characters in books, but I also like characters who make me believe that more is possible.… (more)
LibraryThing member taletreader
I'm on the fence with this book. Some of the stories I really got into, and some of them I didn't. It was really a 50/50 chance of me liking a story, but either way, I made myself read all of them. The main thing I disliked was that all of the stories--really, all of them--were quite depressing. Are there no happy endings with this author??… (more)
LibraryThing member frisbeesage
Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It is a collection of short stories mostly featuring men and women living in the fringes of the American West. They inhabit those small, western towns were people still have one foot in older, more simple ways and one foot edging into the fast-paced, more technological world. The stories are written in a plain, honest language that feels natural for the setting and characters.

In general I'm not a big fan of short stories. They either draw me in and then leave me wanting more or they fail to capture my attention. Maile Meloy did a good job of making me feel immediately connected to the characters and also of creating a clear beginning and an end in her stories. I enjoyed the feeling of getting a brief glimpse into some of the most intimate moments of these ordinary lives. Books written with the flavor of life in the West are always a particular favorite of mine and she invokes the landscape and people with a tenderness and truthfulness that really drew me in. I did wish for a little more hope and happiness for her charcters, but that's me always wanting a happy ending.

I listened to the audio version of Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It. It is read by Kirsten Potter and Bronson Pinchot. They do a fine job of narrating the stories, using unembellished, plain-spoken voices and intonations as suits the people they are narrating. The short stories work nicely in the audio format.
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LibraryThing member juli1357
I thought the author had some interesting ideas in terms of story lines, but her characters were not very well developed. Most of these stories have an interesting twist, but the characters seemed little more than stick figures to whom something was happening to. I felt like I was reading a promising first draft and that in the hands of a more experienced writer, these stories could have gone from "interesting" to "great."… (more)
LibraryThing member TanyaTomato
The title was my main reason for picking this up, but I am glad to have found another stellar author of short stories.
LibraryThing member nosajeel
A fantastic collection of short stories. Each of them is to the point, beautifully depicted, and haunting. The themes are somewhat depressing to contemplate -- from adulterous spouses who fail to follow through on their plans to leave (thus the title "Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It") to father's betraying their daughters in unimaginable yet somewhat sympathetically to parents who are largely forsaken by their spoiled children. The majority of the stories are set in Montana with the remainder spread around the country and in one case Argentina. Many are set in the 1970s, although the time isn't particularly central. And almost all are about relationships, usually family ones, that start out appearing quite normal but that quickly become apparent are deeply damaged. I'm looking forward to her novels, with some fear that the first one will place more emphasis on the liars than it does the saints.… (more)
LibraryThing member theageofsilt
I loved these stories! The characters are quickly and skillfully developed and very believable. In most of the stories, the main character faces a decision that has the ability to complete change his or her circumstances. The situations are realistic and never feel contrived.
LibraryThing member seidchen
An able and convincing storyteller, Maile Meloy has written some strong realist narratives. As a collection, though, these storeis settle into an alarmingly similar point of view: a sort of stupor of longing and grasping.

I usually think a story told well can carry almost any subject matter, and I don't argue with Meloy's capability. These tales, which turn on significant interior moments, are varied, fluent, and well-paced.

However, taken together, they feel too much of a piece, preoccupied as they seem to be with a type of emotional grappling that collapses the world around her characters rather than opening up possibilities. I'd be interested to see what Meloy comes up with if someday she pushes beyond this overpowering sense of confinement.
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LibraryThing member KimHooperWrites
I love, love, love Maile Meloy. Her stories are simultaneously simple and complex. I find myself disbelieving that all these characters and plots come from one mind. With collections like this, I usually like about half of the stories, at best. With Maile Meloy, I like every story (both in this collection and in Half in Love). She's one of my favorite finds of the last decade.… (more)
LibraryThing member RandyMetcalfe
The eleven stories collected here all have something to do with relationships, often frustrated, sometimes unrequited or worse, unwanted. Meloy moves easily between male and female protagonists, sometimes employing child narrators. Although most of the stories appear to be set in Montana, except for perhaps the first, “Travis, B.,” it doesn’t seem as though Montana is integral to the story. Rather, it is usually some aspect of the principal character, heightened by a recent event, that establishes the landscape of the story. It is an emotional landscape with wide vistas but also dark mountains and fast-flowing streams.

There are no weak stories here. Meloy knows her craft and chooses wisely. But there are always a few stories that stand out for any particular reader. For me, “Travis, B.,” “Spy vs. Spy,” and “Two-Step” are highlights. But even writing that I’m already thinking of others that I could have chosen. I like the tender, unrequited affection of “Travis, B.” The arch rivalry of “Spy vs. Spy” added a hint of the surreal, perhaps. And “Two-Step” just seemed both mature and sad, the way extra-marital relationships get more tenuous and probably unrealistic as the participants age. There are plenty of insightful observations amongst these tales and enough bon mots to raise a wry smile. Try “Liliana” for unexpected exuberance.

Well worth a read.
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LibraryThing member TheBookJunky
Well crafted and self assured, wonderful stories. Reminds me of Alice Munro because her stories are of ordinary people and their ordinary lives, but she sees them with an extraordinary clarity.
LibraryThing member AmberMcWilliams
Lovely collection of short stories, themed around desire and its pushes and pulls. Extremely well written so as to be very accessible and yet draw you in with astute observations and lovely phrasing. She makes it look easy, which is the trick to doing anything difficult! Recommended.
LibraryThing member m.belljackson
Well crafted stories focus on mostly predictable predator/prey, male/female relationships and confrontations.

Travis.B resonates strongly, while O. Tannenbaum best delivers on the title.

Red from Green seems to be missing something vital - did the father actually betray his daughter
to help his son's court case? or was that all in her mind?

Lovely Rita = uneasy.
Spy vs. Spy = Great title, but annoying contrived arguing.
Two Step = uncomfortably real.
The Girlfriend = horrible and hotel invite just too stupid.
Liliana = dumb, with requisite animal cruelty.
Nine = sad.
Augustin = who can possibly want to know about some jerk who wants to shoot elephants?
The children = ambivalent, but, like most of the others, lacks mystery.
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LibraryThing member jasonlf
A fantastic collection of short stories. Each of them is to the point, beautifully depicted, and haunting. The themes are somewhat depressing to contemplate -- from adulterous spouses who fail to follow through on their plans to leave (thus the title "Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It") to father's betraying their daughters in unimaginable yet somewhat sympathetically to parents who are largely forsaken by their spoiled children. The majority of the stories are set in Montana with the remainder spread around the country and in one case Argentina. Many are set in the 1970s, although the time isn't particularly central. And almost all are about relationships, usually family ones, that start out appearing quite normal but that quickly become apparent are deeply damaged. I'm looking forward to her novels, with some fear that the first one will place more emphasis on the liars than it does the saints.… (more)

Language

Original language

English

Local notes

Signed by the author

Barcode

6657
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