Mourner at the Door

Gordon Lish, Author Viking Books $16.95 (162p) ISBN 978-0-670-82061-0
The guru of one school of contemporary short story writers weighs in here with a collection of 27 short pieces that are so mannered and monotonous as to seem parodies of the storytelling art. In most of them, the narrator addresses the reader directly and insistently, in a colloquial voice that hammers like a dentist's drill. Sentences are either short and choppy, repeating over and over again like a nervous tic, with the addition of a few words each time: (""Picture Florida. Picture Miami Beach, Florida. Picture a shitty little apartment in a big crappy building . . .''); or a long, run-on stream of consciousness, equally laden with obscenities or scatological terms. A story called ``Shit'' begins: ``I like talking about people sitting on toilets.'' ``Mr. and Mrs. North'' concerns a couple who vomit every morning when they get up. Lish treats family relationships much in the manner of a standup comic, even in the several pieces that have autobiographical overtones. An embarrassing vignette consists almost entirely of women's names, in which the name Barbara is repeated several times, and ends: ``I . . . finally offered marriage to a person whose name was thus.'' The book's dedication reads ``For Brodkey, Ozick, DeLillo, and to Barbara, first, last and always.'' There is one funny tale in which a hapless woman returns from Acapulco with an ailing chihuahua; it takes a vet to tell her that her pet is a rat. This collection rarely rises higher than that level. (March)
Reviewed on: 03/01/1988
Release date: 03/01/1988
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