Big as Life

Rand Richards Cooper, Author
Rand Richards Cooper, Author Dial Press $21.95 (323p) ISBN 978-0-385-31422-0
Reviewed on: 05/01/1995
Release date: 05/01/1995
Hardcover - 256 pages - 978-0-7475-2737-4
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By and large, the men in this chewy new story collection from Cooper, whose first book, The Last to Go, was widely praised, are young professionals baffled by the people they encounter--particularly the women and children. Gary, of ``What They Eat in Whangoom,'' for instance, a lawyer and father of two boys, is having a hard time adjusting to his separation from his wife--but his unease doesn't motivate him to find out what she feels for him now, only to complain that it can't be enough. Krieger, protagonist of ``The Reprieve,'' who feels that he's lost his girlfriend to the ghost of a former flame, and Jay of ``Fireworks at Nine,'' unaccountably in love with a high-school girl, suffer a similar alienation--perhaps too similar. There's a sameness about these men and their situations that detracts from the collection. It's a relief, in ``A Soldier Loyal and True,'' to at last find a woman protagonist: though Cassandra, too, must deal with gender gap as she struggles to figure out her elusive, dead father. Cooper is a talented writer, with a gift for dialogue and imagery. Here, from ``Faith in the System,'' is how Andy Hatter, 10, envisions becoming an adult: ``The circle of things he understands getting bigger year by year, and the circle of things he doesn't getting smaller and smaller until, at some distant point in the future, it will disappear altogether, like the last pinprick dot when you turn the TV off, and then he will be a grown up.'' But adulthood doesn't guarantee understanding, Cooper shows in these 17 stories, which impress with their craftsmanship and ring of truth. (May.)
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