Electric City

Patricia Grace, Author Penguin Books $5.95 (97p) ISBN 978-0-14-010151-5
In these 13 beautifully sculpted stories by the New Zealand Maori author of Potiki, innocence clashes with a harsh and violent reality. Peopled primarily by children who appear in several of the stories, the spare tales focus on the daily and often mundane events in their lives, and the cruelty that lies dormant behind seemingly guileless faces. ""Going for the Bread'' transforms a routine household chore into a nightmare, as middle-class children wielding broken glass terrorize a peasant girl. ``Flies,'' the most disturbing story, details a favorite game: capturing flies, fastening strings around their necks (often at the expense of the flies' heads) and staging a mock battle in which most of the flies are mangled and killed. After the children tie the surviving flies together in one long chain, they let go and ``off went the flies, crazily, pulling this way and that.'' The narrator observes: ``It made you laugh your head off. It made you die.'' Actuality rears its ugly head as well in the few pieces set in the adult world: ``The Geranium'' depicts Marney who savors reading in the local paper about others' lives, steadfastly ignoring her husband's abuse. Throughout, Grace's dry, matter-of-fact tone effectively highlights the darker side of human nature. (May)
Reviewed on: 04/25/1988
Release date: 05/01/1988
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