Better Get Your Angel on

Jennifer Allen, Author
Jennifer Allen, Author Alfred A. Knopf $16.95 (112p) ISBN 978-0-394-56867-6
Reviewed on: 09/01/1989
Release date: 09/01/1989
Written in a variety of insistent, arresting voices that hurtle the reader through glimpses of hedonistic, drug-speeded-up lives, some of the 13 very short stories in this debut collection succeed on their technical brilliance and shock value. Too many of them, however, are mannered and pretentious, studded with artifice and obsessed with alienation. Allen's stage set is a California strident with Day-Glo colors, slick with plastic values, vibrating with the menace of violence. Her characters are people you would never want to meet, in situations that reek with sleaze. Each of these short takes from the fast-lane begins with an attack sentence, the hallmark of Allen's mentor, Gordon Lish. A few of these slices of life are perfectly pitched and constructed, such as ``The Generals,'' wherein the wife of an accident-prone football player reveals the cause of his incorrigible clumsiness, or ``The Burnt,'' in which the pace is as frantic as fire. But too many others are deliberately outrageous. The opening sentence of ``1987'' reads:``. . . I am watching a man who has blood on his face that looks to me like the blood is coming out of his eye give one, two, three kicks to the stomach of a woman who is on her knees in a puddle of sand. . . .'' While Allen is a generously talented writer, one wishes her precocity had been shaped to better ends. (Sept.)
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