Lives of the Fathers

Steven Schwartz, Author, Schwartz, Author University of Illinois Press $19.95 (156p) ISBN 978-0-252-01815-2
The deftly ironic title of this current winner of the Illinois Short Fiction series evokes the acts of holy patriarchs, but eight of the 10 tales touch with economy, delicate precision and depth of feeling on aspects of a fleshly fatherhood that is fallible, guilt-ridden, heroic and loving. In the masterly title story, expectant parent Adam helps his aged, widowed father pack to move. But in a comically macabre delaying tactic, the father brings a woman home for the night, an old flame become bedizened invalid, while Adam's pregnant wife waits and utters dire predictions from the wings. A painful trio--neurotic mother, penitent father, teenage son--appears in ``Legacy'': the boy is seduced by a rabid young patient in the pricey clinic to which his mother is committed, but a new bond between father and son caps the incident. An unloved catatonic mother also figures in ``Q12081011'' (a quasar that fascinates a bookish son), in which the boy holds his philandering, sporty father an emotional hostage. ``Summer of Love'' focuses on a disastrous acid trip shared by Ivan and Maida (recovering from her father's suicide) in a dying Catskills resort. Schwartz delineates with admirable and diverting finesse the timeless spectacle of parents and offspring locked in tenderly shattering combat. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 07/29/1991
Release date: 08/01/1991
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