Departures

Jennifer Cornell, Author University of Pittsburgh Press $22.5 (174p) ISBN 978-0-8229-3855-2
Cornell's succinct stories take us into the heart of tormented and conflicting communities in contemporary Northern Ireland. However, rather than reproduce in all their helter-skelter brutality the details of sectarian hatred, she refracts it through vignettes of ordinary life alleviated, and sometimes transformed, by lyrical and compassionate revelations. At its best, this tack works well. The narrator of ``Heat'' recalls how she and her father used to trap and nurture animals taken from a wood. One day, while they are away from home, they see a terrorist explosion. When they return, their fledglings are dead, killed not by terrorism but by rabbits deprived of the vegetation they would normally feed on, driven to what is, for them, an unnatural level of violence. With everything pointing symbolically to the bombing, the story's feeling of eerie background menace is chilling in its restraint. ``Outtake'' describes a young Protestant trying to pick up a Catholic girl in a pub and what happens when he shares a ride home in a cab with some of her co-religionists. Elsewhere, however, Cornell's attempts to obliquely illuminate the psychology of embattled innocents caught up in struggles which are not of their own making are somewhat cruder. The mildly satirical ``The Start of the Season,'' in which two Northern Irish tourists traveling in Italy try to disguise their homeland's self-destruction, falls flat. Like some others in the collection, it is grounded by a too-heavily rendered political dimension that punctures the drama of self-deception. Maps of Belfast. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 05/29/1995
Release date: 06/01/1995
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