cover image Drought: & Say What You Like

Drought: & Say What You Like

Debra Di Blasi. New Directions Publishing Corporation, $10.95 (89pp) ISBN 978-0-8112-1332-5

Although previously published in literary journals, these two short novellas mark DiBlasi's book debut. Both are composed of short, poetic sections-a handful of self-reflective questions, a single imagistic sentence, a few lines of dialogue-that explore pained and failed relationships. ""Drought"" takes place on a small Kansas farm that has been decimated by a season of debilitating weather. Here, DiBlasi correlates the insufferable heat and decay with the crisis of a young married couple. ""Say What You Like,"" the shorter and better of the two, details the tribulations of an affection-starved woman and her insouciant lover. In its own disjunctive way, ""Say What You Like"" is fictional documentation of how and why couples form-and break up. Both DiBlasi's style and her objective distance and comprehension of her chosen subject mark her as a very psychologically driven, very talented writer. But there are drawbacks: she allows understanding but never empathy, and the specific pathologies of her characters are mostly cliched, the kind of thing a close watcher of our culture knows to expect. Her characters' histories are fraught with abuses that could have come from the back reels of daytime TV shows, and this weakens the power of her otherwise exceptional work. (Feb.)