My People's Waltz

Dale Ray Phillips, Author W. W. Norton & Company $22.95 (190p) ISBN 978-0-393-04715-8
Each of the 10 stories of this collection drew accolades when they first appeared in prominent literary journals, but reading them together reveals the way they meld into a darkly funny and lyrical narrative. With one exception, the stories follow narrator Richard chronologically from childhood through adolescence, into college, marriage, parenthood and divorce. Richard is a Southerner, a wanderer making and escaping homes from North Carolina to Arkansas to Texas and back. Indeed, the tug of geography is the one constant in Richard's life. He teaches college students that each person carries ""a love map, a sketchy cartography formed in childhood which outlines the topography of the people to whom we will surrender our hearts."" His grandfather, a retired judge, lives by the Haw River with a secret ""floozy""; his traveling salesman father and suicidal mother torment themselves with their repeated separations and reconciliations; Richard himself marries up only to learn that upward mobility doesn't ease the difficult work of keeping love alive. Richard's people--hard drinking, smoking, carp-fishing, shady men and cuckolding, pliant women--hold onto one another long after love no longer works. In one memorable scene, Richard plays a game called ""electricity"" with his mother: he grabs a hot wire with one hand, his mother's hand with the other; as the conductor he feels nothing. The reader is not so grounded: Phillips's prose flashes powerful unpredictability with every delicious little shock. Author tour. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 03/01/1999
Release date: 03/01/1999
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 190 pages - 978-0-380-73336-1
Paperback - 192 pages - 978-0-393-34290-1
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