Certain People

Roberta Allen, Author Coffee House Press $10.95 (118p) ISBN 978-1-56689-052-6
The latest in the publisher's Coffee-to-Go series brings together 33 extremely short stories into a rather short book. Most stories are set in Australia and New York and feature artists, curators and writers as the principal characters. In ""House Hunting,"" a man mourns a lover who left him for a cook. ""The man,"" as he is initially called (or ""the man whose lover left him for a cook,"" as he is subsequently called), seems less bothered by the fact that his lover has departed than that she left him for a cook. ""Without Shame"" tells how this same affluent man drives through a neighborhood filled with mansions even he can't afford in an attempt to deal with his grief. ""Here, the man who is rich can feel poor; a poor man can be left for a cook without shame,"" states the narrator in this one-paragraph, one-page story. Another recurring character appears in ""Brief Encounters"" and ""Bar Ecology,"" tales narrated by a bartender who says in the latter piece: ""I let my customers do the talking. I do the listening."" In both these longer stories and her tiny, vivid set pieces, Allen herself plays the listener. She holds her characters at a distance, rarely giving them names but instead according them the bemused attention of a good-natured deity. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 12/30/1996
Release date: 01/01/1997
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