Circumnavigation

Steve Lattimore, Author
Steve Lattimore, Author Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) $22 (211p) ISBN 978-0-395-85407-5
Paperback - 224 pages - 978-0-395-92621-5
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With graceful prose that walks the line between humor and cruelty, this impressive debut collection presents a range of creative settings. The characters, most of them searchers desperate for something that's missing from their humdrum lives, are also an impressively varied bunch. In the title story, a strange abandoned boy obsessed with the workings of electricity and ceiling fans finds himself in the care of a narrator exhausted with life, barely able to care for himself. In ""Dogs,"" one boy's afternoon home sick from school turns into several hours of cruelty at the hands of a bully on suspension. In ""Separate States,"" a teenaged girl discovers from a vision that the man who takes care of her isn't her biological father. And in ""Between Angels,"" a rare departure from the Carver-esque suburban, Lattimore gives us a goofy, bloody confrontation between the Ark of the Covenant, mobsters scrambling for life's meaning and an unemployed car salesman: Tarantino meets Malamud. Lattimore's flirtations with magic never stray into magical realism, however. His characters' backgrounds and dilemmas are rigorously mundane, and despite the occasional epiphany ex machina--and a few sentimental exchanges that leap out of their conscientiously drab settings--Lattimore's nine stories will draw the eager attention of those who want to know whatever happened to minimalist short fiction. (Oct.)
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