Dear Miss Mansfield

Witi Tame Ihimaera, Author Viking Books $19.95 (240p) ISBN 978-0-670-82624-7
Though uneven and poorly organized, this collection of short stories, addressed to the writer (1888-1923) who was known as Katherine Mansfield, has its pleasures. An adolescent learns his family history from a father who gets facts wrong but emotions right in a fine tale called ``A Contemporary Kezia,'' but only at book's end does ``The Washerwoman's Children'' reveal who Kezia is. The touching ``Country Life,'' in which a child gets wished-for electricity that exposes her home's shabbiness and ``eats up all the silence,'' is preceded by works less limber and poignant. Among them is ``Maata,'' a stiff-jointed novella about a Maori journalist looking for a missing manuscript by Mansfield, to whom Ihimaera, a fellow New Zealander, pays somewhat fulsome homage in his introduction. Curiously outdated in technique--headlines are used to indicate passing time; a paragraph begins, ``Later, after their healthy sexuality had been satisfied''a character cries, ``Praise Neptune'' --the novella is less successful than the stories that follow. A journalist, opera librettist and author of seven previous books, Ihimaera has considerable talent, which in his best stories shines through. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 01/30/1990
Release date: 02/01/1990
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