The Dream of the White Village: A Novel in Stories

Philip E. Baruth, Author
Philip E. Baruth, Author R. N. M., Inc. $24 (333p) ISBN 978-0-9657144-1-9
Reviewed on: 06/01/1998
Release date: 06/01/1998
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Set in Burlington, Vt., here a microcosm of the American dream gone sour, Baruth's gritty collection is a dogged, if rather obvious, unmasking of white middle-class hypocrisy and of the racism planted deep in America's soul. To its complacent denizens, the eponymous ""white village"" of Burlington is Caucasian, rich and liberal, an exemplar of small-town virtue and community spirit. But underneath this postcard setting Baruth finds an icy inferno of ethnic, racial, class and generational tensions, a place plagued by hooliganism against Asian Americans and gays, a no-man's-land where the country's drifters clash with resentful locals. The varied cast includes Cheryl-lin, a Taiwanese, lesbian waitress and sculptor estranged from her immigrant family; Maurice Masseau, the politically ambitious, violently racist son of a corrupt police sergeant; Maurice's brother Reuben, a convicted arsonist who torched an AIDS outreach center; James Craig, a suicidal, recently divorced carpenter just arrived from Southern California; and Smooth Water, a drifting Indian furious at his people's displacement by the federal government. Through the unmoored characters of these 13 stories, which unfold during the 1970s and '90s, Baruth evokes a place--and a nation--adrift. Although his Burlington lacks the compelling immediacy of, say, William Kennedy's Albany, N.Y., his disquieting, timely novel transcends regional appeal. Agent: Jay Rogers; author tour. (July)
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