TALKING IN THE DARK: Stories
In spare, refreshing prose, Louis writes of characters burned by love and searching for reprieve in this debut collection of eight short stories. Often peopled by Chinese-Americans, Louis's carefully imagined worlds are murky places where a high school tennis player becomes the object of one man's tragic obsession ("Thirty Yards"); where Fei Lo, an elderly widower, is the newest target of a younger, gold-digging woman who steals his dead wife's fur coat ("Fur"); where a woman seeks solace with her married doctor when her husband abandons their family for months, sending photographs and drawings home each week with no return address ("Talking in the Dark"). Many characters are treading the waters of doubt and despair, an image especially apropos to two aquatic-themed stories. In "The Quiet at the Bottom of the Pool," Rosemary Berg, the soon-to-be-divorced mother of two, allows herself to be seduced by her daughter's teenaged boyfriend, Buck, in a moment of complete vulnerability. In "Divining the Waters," a jewelry maker named Ruby is haunted by a secondhand and more elaborate version of Rosemary's story as she weighs risk and responsibility in her own life. Although a couple of Louis's tales lack the purpose of her best, none disappoint, and it is easy to see a gift for the compact form in this newcomer whose honesty doesn't always require a perfectly stitched-up denouement. West Coast author tour. (Apr.)Forecast:Winner of the Katherine Anne Porter Prize and published in Best American Short Stories in 1994 and 1997, Louis is sure to find, with this impressive collection, a core audience among the literary magazine set.