The Penguin Book of the City
Penguin, $17.95 hb, 382 pp
This attractive collection of short pieces – mostly fiction – reminded me of the old music-hall adage: start with a bang and leave the best acts till the end. Robert Drewe’s selection certainly begins with a bang. John Updike’s ‘The City’ is the story of a man who arrives in a unnamed city, and sees no more of it than an anonymous hotel room and the hospital where he has his appendix removed. By the end of this cunningly crafted fable, we realise that the city’s fascination for Carson, the central character, is directly related to its being unknown, unseen and as much a cipher (and perhaps a menace too) as it was when he arrived, decidedly queasy from the airline’s freeze-dried peanuts – or so he thought at the time.