cover image Ice Age

Ice Age

Robert Anderson, Author University of Georgia Press $24.95 (200p) ISBN 978-0-8203-2243-8

Winner of the Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction, this challenging, eclectic debut collection of 10 stories turns the world as we know it inside out. Highly inventive and sometimes downright audacious, the stories range in setting from New York City and L.A. to Barcelona, featuring recognizable characters in twisted and absurd situations as well as real-life personalities like Norman Mailer, Jimi Hendrix and Leonard Bernstein caught in surreal time warps. Closest to a traditional, O'Connoresque story is ""Dead and the Maid,"" in which a white-trash Texas woman holds on to the last of her land by accepting $300 per body from the state to bury vagrants and prisoners. Engaging in a long one-sided conversation with a Mrs. Buxton, her first state-executed guest: ""She apologized for taking up the better part of the day getting Mrs. Buxton `settled in' and particularly for the three-hour wait in the tractor shed--her pastor was undergoing therapy for pedophilia."" In a beautifully executed dramatic monologue, ""The Name of the Dead,"" the widow of a disgraced mobster talks to a bartender about the past, evidently still longing to be the insider she once was. The language throughout is lush and poetic: ""They drove off in their squat, armadillo-faced trucks, leaving the stripes of their desertion in the sand,"" and ""Where she stepped down off of the pine porch, there was only the red earth and its spitefulness nettled the bottoms of her bare feet."" Some of the longer stories are less accessible, and their plots even more bizarre, but Anderson's sophisticated manipulation of language and narrative leave the reader breathless, if occasionally slightly confused. (Sept.) FYI: the publisher has informed PW that Ice Age is now a November release.