Anthropology

Dan Rhodes, Author
Dan Rhodes, Author Villard Books $18.95 (224p) ISBN 978-0-375-50421-1
Reviewed on: 09/04/2000
Release date: 09/01/2000
Paperback - 202 pages - 978-1-84195-649-7
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An ingenious project in prose construction, Rhodes's book of short stories is composed of 101 tales, each containing exactly 101 words. The short-shorts boast an economy of language common to prose poems, or even sonnets, and the subject matter is love. The speaker appears to have a new girlfriend in each story. The women have names like Mazzy, Xanthe, Treasure, Foxglove or more commonly, ""My girlfriend,"" and the adventures of the various lovers are alternately funny, goofy, clever and surreal, with an occasional drop of pathos for the speaker's oft-thwarted heart. Angelique drives the speaker to stick pins in his face, Paris is literally catatonic after her bike is stolen, Tortoiseshell is in jail, Celestia may just be a bunch of chemicals, Amber goes to the grocery store naked. The best pieces, the ones that feature comic, misunderstood dialogue between lovers, resemble poet Hal Sirowitz's humorous Mother Said, while other pieces are overly Brautigan inspired. Many of these feature a story line of the girlfriend who is so beautiful that the speaker feels sorry for her ex-boyfriends, but is also petrified at the possibility of becoming one of them. In spite of some less than sparkling entries, most of these little nuggets are fun, quirky and occasionally poetically lovely. They gather steam, increasing in violence, heartbreak and intensity as the book progresses. Like the French poetry movement Oulipo--an experimental group whose projects included the writing of an entire novel without using the letter ""e""--Rhodes seems to have created a new, ostensibly senseless form that yields some true delights. (Sept.)
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