On the Island: New and Selected Stories

Josephine Jacobsen, Author
Josephine Jacobsen, Author Ontario Review Press $18.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-86538-067-7
Reviewed on: 06/01/1989
Release date: 06/01/1989
Though Jacobsen's work is distinguished by its voluptuous verbal textures, the sumptuousness of the surface can sometimes detract from the intense power of these 20 stories. With seven books of poetry and two works of literary criticism to her credit, this third collection of her stories represents a compilation, with six new additions, from the previous A Walk with Raschid and Adios Mr. Moxley. The stories are metaphorically linked in that all the characters inhabit islands of one sort or other; physical, emotional or cultural isolations that cannot be broken. Many tales take place in exotic settings, intimations of paradise into which violence and chaos seep almost inperceptibly and then explode. A family on sabbatical in the Caribbean tries to build a friendship with their native neighbors, only to be instrumental in the death of their son. An American writer, frustrated because he cannot penetrate the cultural barrier in Guatemala, offers to buy a woodcarving from a man in the forest, but instead is the object of violence; a vacationing couple, interested in exotic birds, steps unwittingly into the inner circle of a terrifying ritual; a newly divorced woman drops a cup in a garden and becomes the focus of a native gardener's anger. In ``The Edge of the Sea,'' the protagonist says, ``At a shifting moment, just somewhere the foot cannot find the sand below, and the edge is crossed, the sea's edge, into the sea's power.'' Rendered with an artist's eye and a poet's metaphorical sense, many of Jacobsen's characters cross the edge. (June)
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