Seduction Theory: Stories

Thomas Beller, Author W. W. Norton & Company $21 (205p) ISBN 978-0-393-03767-8
``Happiness is a solid and joy a liquid,'' quotes Beller from Salinger in the epigraph to this first collection, aptly setting the tone for 10 tales that shimmer with hope and a youthful, if somewhat callow, jouissance. Seldom is New York City as gentle a setting as in these tender, acutely observed stories of courtship, love and youthful rites of passage. Even 42nd Street skin parlors and Harlem's mean streets are merely lurid foils for Beller's amusingly ingenuous characters as they grope their way through relationships romantic, platonic and filial. Like the protagonist of ``The Hot Dog War,'' the self-centered, 20-something college-educated young men who feature in most of these stories are frequently unsure of how to deal with the opposite sex. ``Women were like campfires to Walter: warm and comforting in the midst of wilderness, but if you didn't keep an eye on them you might end up engulfed in flames.'' The fires may come perilously close, as in ``Nondestructive Testing'' and the title story, both chronicles of amorous encounters gone awry, but they don't leave any lasting scars. Interspersed among these accounts of Manhattan mating rites are five stories about one character, Alex Fader, which track him as he grows from youth to adulthood. The last, ``Live Wires,'' aglow with wise humor and heartfelt compassion in its depiction of a family Hanukkah party, epitomizes the writer's fondness for ``the awkward, transparent fragility of people such as these.'' (May)
Reviewed on: 05/01/1995
Release date: 05/01/1995
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