Do the Windows Open?

Julie Hecht, Author Random House (NY) $21 (256p) ISBN 978-0-679-45201-0
It's surprising that Hecht, a longtime contributor to the New Yorker and a winner of the O. Henry Prize, hasn't published a book before this. These nine stories are all narrated by the same bracingly neurotic heroine, a 40-ish photographer named Isabelle who has a lot to say on virtually everything from the intricacies of macrobiotic cooking to whether or not her optician is or was a Nazi, the son of Nazis, a neo-Nazi or, at the very least, a Nazi sympathizer. When she's not working on her idiosyncratic photo-essays (flowers in decline, reproductive surgeons and their dogs), Isabelle spends an inordinate amount of time chasing down objects essential for her daily life, like organic vegetables and reversible alpaca coats from England. Meanwhile, she keeps up a barrage of exceedingly manic diatribes on such pressing subjects as the greenhouse effect, the passage of time and how annoying Swedish people can be--all expressed in borderline hysterical, impeccably crisp diction, like Miss Manners with the wrong prescription. The best of these stories are hilariously funny, filled with the horrors of modern life (bad architecture, traffic jams, the smell of peanuts on the bus) and wacky exchanges with her loudmouthed reproductive surgeon, Dr. Loquesto, her careless floor sander, the guy at the Discount Drugs or her neighbors in Nantucket and East Hampton. Some of the stories may remind the reader of a long phone conversation with a batty, obsessed neighbor who doesn't know when to hang up. You may breathe a little sigh of relief when they're over--but then again, her point of view is so entertaining, you can't wait for her to call back. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 12/30/1996
Release date: 01/01/1997
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 224 pages - 978-0-14-027145-4
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