Polonaise: Stories

Anthony Bukoski, Author
Anthony Bukoski, Author Southern Methodist University Press $19.95 (192p) ISBN 978-0-87074-434-1
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Set mainly in the Polish section of industrial Superior, Wisc., Bukoski's (Children of Strangers) newest story collection delicately balances poignant reflection with interior drama. Loss, confusion and the shape of evil loom large in these 12 short fictions; while Bukoski's characters may appear stolidly ensconced in blue-collar jobs that serve civic or national needs, their less tangible cravings remain difficult to define and satisfy. Memories of the Old Country continually tug at the characters, as in ""Pesthouse,"" in which a history teacher being treated for alcoholism remembers the hatred and distrust of Jews that obsessed her father and others in the disease-ravaged Polish-American community shortly after WWII. ""Dry Spell"" draws a parallel between a water shortage in Superior and the decay of a man's marriage. In ""Bird of Passage,"" an older widower brings a young Polish woman to America to be his wife, only to become aware of her avariciousness, profound boredom and duplicity. Although the ending is no surprise, it's the sadness of the lovesick and cuckolded husband that Bukoski deftly evokes. In this and other stories that aim simply to elicit an emotion, the effect is muted, ultimately leaving less of an echo in the reader's mind. Bukoski studs his largely realistic text with thoughtful, plainly written flights of the imagination. In ""Tools of Ignorance,"" a frustrated and lonely bartender (who once was a great baseball player) has a moment of private fancy: ""Over the cloudy jar of pickled pigs' feet, I stare in the mirror, wishing a storm would come to steam up the mirror and blow out the neon sign in front so I could serve the guys by flashlight or candlelight."" The voices that tell these stories are, by turns, regretful, nostalgic or cheerful, but always honest. (Mar.)
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