Driving the Heart and Other Stories

Jason Brown, Author, Theodore E. Brown, Author W. W. Norton & Company $23 (224p) ISBN 978-0-393-04721-9
In one of the 13 stories in this extraordinary debut collection, a boy recalls the wisdom of an elderly woman: ""alteration of reality into new forms created a beauty more true than what I could see with my own eyes."" The author himself rises to this challenge, and where his stories are not simply beautiful, they invariably leave an indelible impression of the grotesquely or sharply sublime. Brown provides detailed contexts, whether he's wryly and poetically portraying ""The Sadness of Bodies,"" describing the duties of a human organ transport team or showing the effects of dysfunctional parenting. In ""Thief,"" a boy whose manic-depressive mother repeatedly locks herself in her room breaks into another home to absorb the milieu of a ""normal"" mother. In the process, he steals things--the reenactment of his parents' theft of his childhood. Brown neatly handles the eccentricities of mental illness, describing with bleak humor the dying mother in ""Animal Stories"" who replaces her past with others' memories. The most stunning tale is ""The Coroner's Report,"" offering sundry oddities about death against the poignant backdrop of damaged lives. We learn of a man sliced in half who maintained an anxious conversation for five more hours, and another who shot himself in the head but drove home, drew a bath and died in the tub. Brown excels at portraying the life struggles of those with ravaged psychic resources, unique people and their alienated offspring at life's dark edges, at times as creepy as they are enticing. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 03/29/1999
Release date: 04/01/1999
Paperback - 240 pages - 978-0-393-33206-3
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