cover image Confessions of a Falling Woman and Other Stories

Confessions of a Falling Woman and Other Stories

Debra Dean, . . Harper Perennial, $13.95 (224pp) ISBN 978-0-06-082532-4

Dean follows her debut novel, The Madonnas of Leningrad , with a humorous collection chronicling struggling actors and actresses, therapy sessions and romantic relationships on the brink of disaster. After a bizarre break-in, the 30-something actor-narrator of “Dan in the Gray Flannel Rat Suit” finds himself on the cusp of fleeing a cruel New York with his wife and child. “The Queen Mother” reveals an actress returning to Louisiana to help coax her dramatic, alcoholic mom to rehab. In “The Afterlife of Lyle Stone,” a Seattle attorney allows a vivid dream to unhinge his waking life, while a group of creative-minded neighbors have their lives shaken up by a Muppet-like puppeteer in “What the Left Hand Is Saying.” Herself a former actress, Dean illuminates the nastiness of the business and the psychic toll of performance, writing about failure and loss with unfailing comic precision: “But gradually I fall under the spell of my own acting, or the rhythm of the act, it doesn’t matter which,” the narrator of “Romance Manual” says of sleeping with a fellow cast member. Readers will certainly forget themselves in these sparkling stories, pausing over small, strange moments that change entire lives. (Feb.)