Maile Meloy, Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It
A perfect fusion of physical location and the writer’s personality
Maile Meloy has a true sympathy for characters. This is not to say that the personalities that pop from her latest short story collection Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It are themselves sympathetic. Her subjects are deeply flawed — in the way that actual people usually are. The stories themselves are spare and many seem to mirror their setting, which, more often than not, is the author’s native Montana. Meloy’s Montana is in some ways comparable to James Joyce’s Dublin: a perfect fusion of a physical location and the writer’s personality.
In the outstanding, “Two-Step,” and collection opener, “Travis, B.” the emotional space between characters is nearly as impassible and grand as the size of Montana. Meloy’s creations are lawyers, ranch hands, students, and doctors. They’re also always, always lonely, whether in the frenzied way of jilted lovers, the inconsolable despair of grieving parents, or the flatly distant demeanor of the emotionally unavailable.
As for giving voices to Meloy’s characters, Kirsten Potter does an admirable, if slightly perky, job, but the surprising standout is former television star Bronson Pinchot. When he grumbles, “He spent his twenty-first birthday wearing long johns under two flannel shirts and his winter coat, warming up soup on the stove. He got afraid of himself that winter; he sensed something dangerous that would break free if he kept so much alone,” one can’t help but pull one’s collar tighter and shudder against the cold.