Key West Tales: Stories

John Hersey, Author Alfred A. Knopf $23 (227p) ISBN 978-0-679-42992-0
This posthumous collection of stories, set in a place Hersey loved, may be the last work we shall see from this greatly gifted writer. It is a curious collection, blending fully realized fictional stories with real-life happenings in the Key's long history that are little more than anecdotes, richly embellished by the author. These are mildly enjoyable but quite forgettable. By far the most substantial story, ``Get Up, Sweet Slug-a-bed'' (the quotation is from Thomas Herrick), is a startling departure for Hersey, being about an aging and once rather ruthless gay professor dying of AIDS, and the bickering over his care and with his awful family. It is full of tender observation, often funny, and ultimately poignant--and nothing else in the collection is on the same level. A much more conventional story (and a more predictable one from the author), ``Piped Over the Side,'' is about a naval officer's ambivalent feelings toward his retirement ceremony. ``The Two Lives of Consuela Castanon'' is a wry tale about a deliciously fat young woman and a lover who, unhappily for her, likes her just the way she is. ``Fantasy Fest'' has a woman anxiously seeking her natural son, adopted as a baby, in the whirl of a Halloween parade. Everything here is smooth and professional, if occasionally rather trite (``Page Two'' and ``A Game of Anagrams''). Only the AIDS story shows Hersey really moving on into new and tougher-minded terrain. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 11/29/1993
Release date: 12/01/1993
Genre: Fiction
Hardcover - 978-0-517-47527-0
Paperback - 240 pages - 978-0-679-77263-7
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