Water Into Wine

Helen Norris, Author, Norris, Author University of Illinois Press $14.95 (152p) ISBN 978-0-252-01540-3
Akin to the door-to-door salesman in ``Water into Wine''the last story of this wonderfully written collection that lends the book its titlewho distills common tap water, Norris's enchanting narrative voice transmutes ordinary, undramatic events and lives into the magical, rich and strange. While her stories all seem to be situated in the contemporary U.S., a degree of imprecision as to setting, coupled with the mellifluous, lyrical quality of the narration lends a timeless, otherworldly quality. Common themes running through these tales are the feeling of solitude and the yearning for love to assuage it, and a striving to unite with an ideal of beauty expressed through the powers of the imagination. Norris's protagonists are poets in the antique sense, creators of beauty in their lives. The elderly woman in ``Mrs. Moonlight'' strives to escape her bossy daughter and the threat of a nursing home by rebuilding a tree house that saw the initiation of her first romance. In ``The Cormorant,'' two men and a boy who desire a faithless, beautiful woman express their need for an absent ideal through wood carving. Recalling Laforgue and Eliot, ``White Hyacinths'' demonstrates that transcendent beauty can spring out of mire: a damaged, squalid, destitute man creates glorious music, offering a vision of the ideal that shames the complacent. In a similar way, Norris manifests a vision of poetic perfection, a higher conception of stylistic excellence than that to which we are accustomed. (August)
Reviewed on: 06/03/1988
Release date: 06/01/1988
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