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Both Ways Is The Only Way I Want It

by Maile Meloy

One of the beauties of the short story format is its suitability for concisely exposing the flaws and frailties of human nature (think Chekhov, William Trevor, Alice Munro) and, as such, the shortcomings of the characters in these eleven immaculately conceived tales are suitably exposed. The curious title is taken from a poem by A.R. Ammons, consisting of a single sentence: “One can’t have it / both ways and both / ways is the only / way I want it.” And want it both ways many of these characters do.

In O TANNENBAUM a rather ordinary family trip to find a Christmas tree becomes an episode of unbearable tension when they pick up a pair of hitchhikers named Bonnie and Clyde; in RED FROM GREEN a father, a lawyer, turns his back on the seduction of his fifteen year old daughter so as not to upset a much-needed client; and in LILIANA a granny from hell (or is she from heaven?) makes a rather unconventional appearance.

The locations range from Los Angeles to Argentina but the stories are mostly set in towns and communities in the glorious, expansive Montana landscape. The characters are real people with secret (and sometimes not so secret) desires and disappointments who seem to lack the power to change their lives. The stories are sometimes sad, sometimes poignant, and in the case of THE GIRLFRIEND, downright tragic. The author effortlessly creates tension, twists and surprises written in crackling, pure prose, which leaves the reader quite astonished at times.

If, like me, you are a lover of the short story, then take hold of this collection and savour its every sparkling word.

Irene Haynes


I read Maile Meloy's novel Liars and Saints which I thought was brilliant. Her style is very clear and deceptively simple. I've bought Both Ways and look forward to reading it. Just a little comment; nowhere on the cover of Both Ways does it mention that it's a short story collection. Do Canongate think it would put people off to mention it? I wonder.

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