What Keeps Me Here: Stories

Rebecca Brown, Author
Rebecca Brown, Author HarperCollins Publishers $20 (170p) ISBN 978-0-06-017440-8
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If Samuel Beckett were a woman in late- 20th century America, he might have written stories like Brown's. None of Brown's characters--except the most peripheral--have names, and the author's use of pronouns and simple, declarative sentences gives her writing a flat affect that rises to a nearly hysterical pitch with the accumulation of details. The best stories in the collection begin with a seemingly innocuous event. The narrator of ""Bread"" invests the morning ritual of eating rolls in a girls' school with special importance because of her obsession with the schoolmate who eats the lone wheat roll at breakfast. ""A Relationship"" is the story of a married woman who phones her former female lover in the middle of the night, told from the first-person point of view of each participant in the lovers' triangle. Some of the most disturbing stories in this collection are ironic takes on fairy tales. In ""The Princess and the Pea,"" the first sentence--""There's something in the bed, she says""--signals that the lovers' relationship has gone seriously awry, and the problems only intensify as the two take apart the bed, searching for the alien presence. Although a few of the stories are self-consciously elliptical or annoyingly arch, Brown (The Gifts of the Body) is a provocative writer whose intense imagination invests these tales with eerie menace. (Sept.)
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