Safe House

Burton Shulman, Author Global City Press $12 (180p) ISBN 978-1-887369-03-9
All the stories in this debut collection set up interesting, inventive situations full of tension, but fail to resolve them in any satisfying way. In ""Dogs,"" Mark Cohen and his artist wife are living in a part of Brooklyn that seemed about to blossom with gentrification when they moved in but instead is deteriorating. There's plenty of heat between Mark and his African American neighbors; ultimately, however, he merely witnesses the neighborhood's division. The title story, about Brian, a young man who accompanies his girlfriend, Laura, to her father's beach house, shows Shulman at his best. In one scene, Brian and Laura lie in bed listening to her father and a partner have sex. Written in wonderfully economical language, ""Safe House"" is a story replete with strong undercurrents of sexuality and jealousy, but it ends with the sudden appearance of two threatening strangers on the beach while Brian watches Laura swim. While this scene is affecting on its own, it adds little to the story as a whole. In ""Ghosts,"" the narrator's relationship with his father has a troubled history, but though they ride each other, they always stop short of causing an explosion. (In one indicative scene, the narrator douses the charcoal in a grill with an entire can of lighter fluid, then safely lights it himself rather than endanger his father.) There are moving moments of isolation here, and the writing is uniformly strong, but the stories read as though Shulman, aiming for subtlety, overshoots the mark and lands in obscurity. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 07/31/2000
Release date: 08/01/2000
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