Dating Miss Universe: Nine Stories

Steven Polansky, Author, David Polansky, Author
Steven Polansky, Author, David Polansky, Author Ohio State University Press $21.95 (196p) ISBN 978-0-8142-5019-8
Reviewed on: 03/01/1999
Release date: 03/01/1999
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With the surgical skill of his literary forebear Raymond Carver, Polansky cuts away the skin of conventional relationships and love as it's normally described to reveal in nine smart (and smarting) stories the cankers that infect us all. The ineffectual and frustrated father of ""Leg"" refuses to treat the scrape he gets from a pointless slide into third in a church group baseball game. He turns feverish and stiff, afflicted to the bone, but won't see the doctor until his disdainful and uncommunicative teenage son comes to him in tears. Punning with a gentle smirk, the story ""Sleights"" tells of a dead magician who, omniscient, watches as his daughter Judith absents herself from his funeral. Aware but unrepenting of some crime he committed against her--one suspects neglect at best--the magician does not defend himself when Judith claims in a letter to her estranged cousin that she hates her father and is not sorry he has died. In ""Coda,"" Lack and Rosenthal, acquaintances, not friends, come into an uneasy and quickly dissolved intimacy when Rosenthal tells Lack the story of his sexual depravity. Polansky's dialogue is clipped, the stories brief. Suspenseful and riddled characters, both distressed and repressed, dwell in these neat plots pulled together with nooselike finality. Here, the last laugh belongs to Polansky and it's a devastating, ironic twitch of a smile. (Apr.)
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