A COMPENDIUM OF SKIRTS

Phyllis Moore, Author . Carroll & Graf $24 (224p) ISBN 978-0-7867-0989-2

Short and sweet and to the point, the seven stories in this promising debut collection exuberantly explore the relationships that make life bearable. In a rueful examination of brother/sister love, "The Language Event," set at the Indy 500, manages to be rowdy and exquisitely wistful at the same time. Moore strikes another significant chord in "Big Pink and Little Minkie," conjuring magic by exploring the tenuous but often poignant truths to be gleaned from the mundane commuter experience. She hits the ball out of the park with the near novella-length "A History of Pandas," a flawless exercise in characterization. This sharp portrayal of sisterhood sings, as the narrator, called Sweet Pea, examines the root of her boundless adoration of her sibling Lydia, a preschool teacher whose early widowhood has forged a bond between the two that time can not diminish. In "Rembrandt's Bones," a professor of art history deals with two simultaneous deaths—a student's suicide and the natural death of sugar-loving Opal, a childhood mentor who taught her to love words and always to appreciate the unexpected. Revealing a spiritual kinship with Lewis Nordan, Moore writes matter-of-fact yet outlandish sentences that read like tiny novels—"Opal's Cousin Alma was married to my second cousin J.W. and when J.W. died, Alma showed up at the funeral with a lady-pink pistol and shot him five times in his open coffin before they could get the gun away from her. They couldn't figure out what to charge her with." Although all of the female narrators speak with nearly the same wry and self-aware voice, readers will enjoy this buoyant collection. Agent, Noah Lukeman. (Sept.)

Reviewed on: 07/22/2002
Release date: 08/01/2002
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Paperback - 181 pages - 978-0-7867-1262-5
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