The Seven Year Atomic Make-Over Guide: And Other Stories

Christine Bell, Author W. W. Norton & Company $21 (0p) ISBN 978-0-393-03945-0
Bell's first collection of short fiction (after the novels Saint and The Perez Family) aims for the unsure and troubled core of contemporary life but doesn't always hit the mark. The first few stories are talky and undefined, lacking in vivid scenes, especially in comparison to the carefully imagined ""Mercy,"" the collection's penultimate tale. In that story, Sophie, a woman in a nursing home, remembers a lifelong friendship with Thenia, the woman who comes to visit her every Thursday. The chronicle of their younger days, and of Thenia's difficult marriage and subsequent love affair with a man named Stanislaus, unfolds with admirable understatement (""Once I asked her if Stanislaus was a good lover and she told me that he was a kind man""). Successful, too, is the playful title tale, which spoofs tabloid newspapers, T-shirt slogans and suburban romance as a woman accidentally feeds information to a national rag called the Intra-Star. This level of short-story skill, however, is not always evident in the collection's seven other narratives. Many are too brief or lack the detail necessary to create emotional resonance. Others, such as ""Pine Lake,"" which features a narrator speaking from the grave (more precisely, the bottom of a lake), rely mostly on gimmicks. (June)
Reviewed on: 06/03/1996
Release date: 06/01/1996
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 188 pages - 978-0-393-33511-8
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