Private Fame

Richard Burgin, Author, Burgin, Author University of Illinois Press $16.95 (155p) ISBN 978-0-252-01843-5
The characters in this disconcerting collection of 11 short stories are often alienated intellectuals, withdrawn because of childhood torments or adult psychoses. When Burgin ( Man Without Memory ) creates a disturbed individual and writes from his viewpoint--a young man adopts a disguise that allows him to prowl the streets of Manhattan, deliberately scaring people (``The Spirit of New York''); or the woman so afraid to lower her defenses that she won't ever go to sleep (``Rats'')--the reader slowly grasps the extent of the distortion in his life. But it's in the stories narrated by the people connected to the disturbed character that we see just how pervasive unbalanced behavior is. A lonely professor accommodates a woman who refuses to venture outside because she fears both her ex-husband and skin cancer (``Heidi Indoors''), and a wife's fixation on a famous philosopher prompts her husband on an obsessive search for information about him (``Some Notes Toward Ending Time''). Treading the edge of reality demands a delicate touch, so Burgin can be forgiven an occasional slip--he veers at times toward the heavy-handed or silly--but his tales are never sedate nor prettified. While his protagonists' existences twist to extremes, they remain surprisingly and uncomfortably valid. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 07/01/1991
Release date: 07/01/1991
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