Holding Pattern: Stories

Jeffery Renard Allen, Author . Graywolf $16 (227p) ISBN 978-1-55597-509-8

Allen melds gritty urban life and magical realism in his first collection (after the novel Rails Under My Back ). At times, the combination works—in the title story, full of contemporary slang, a character grows wings, but instead of ethereal white feathers, they are “dried up and brown and crusty, like some fried chicken wings.” In “It Shall Be Again,” more of a prose poem than a story, characters open their mouths to catch a “thick dirty” rain of pennies. Some stories lack cohesiveness, and although Allen isn't attempting to write traditional pieces, the stories would benefit from coherency. Even in the weaker entries, though, Allen delivers striking images—two brothers chewing on wads of toilet paper, a scalp that looks like “watermelon meat chewed down to the rind.” It is these images, rather than particular events or characters, that leave the strongest impressions. Though scattered cultural references and spot-on dialogue root these stories mainly in the present, they have a distinct feeling of being outside of time. (Sept.)

Reviewed on: 07/07/2008
Release date: 09/01/2008
Ebook - 256 pages - 978-1-55597-347-6
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