Hugh Brody has been getting a tough time from reviewers for Means of Escape, his first book of fiction (Douglas & McIntyre), offered anomalously as "a set of stories" which he introduces with the desideratum that we read them in the order in which he sets them out—surely an outrageous intervention: who, after all, reads a book of stories in the order of their presentation? An orchestrated reading is what novels provide—with a "set" of stories, linking meditations might provide that orchestration, if they were provided. But there are none provided here: too much is thrown over to the reader, who can feel only incompetent in the face of such ambition. For this is the most ambitious book of the last few years, prefaced with the rubric, "We tell stories to make sense of our lives." Sadly, the reviewers are generally right: these stories, as given, don't work. They range the world, they contain brilliant writing and unsurpassed imagining, but they lack, on a story-by-story basis, the stuff of connection: they leave no imprint. This book is a magnificent failure, just as John Berger's great unrealized masterpiece, G, is magnificent and a failure. A marker, by which we can measure our own ambitions.