Spit Baths

Greg Downs, Author . Univ. of Georgia $24.95 (174p) ISBN 978-0-8203-2846-1

Examining the nooks and crannies of contemporary backwater life in the South and Midwest, Downs's debut collection opens with a kaleidoscopic description of an extended family breaking apart that is as disorienting as it is beautiful. "Black Pork" follows a white minor league pitcher back to the former sharecropper's shack he shares with his dementia-plagued grandfather, and manages to be simultaneously excruciating and deeply insightful about race as it centers on the two men's relationship with the black single mother and daughter across the lane. In "Ain't I a King, Too?" (set in 1935) a man about to leave his family finds himself abducted when he is mistaken for the then just assassinated Huey P. Long, the corrupt former governor of Louisiana. "Freedom Rider" turns similarly odd when a school trip turns into a physical free-for-all among the adolescent participants. Even more darkly, in "A Comparative History of Nashville Love Affairs," a middle-aged man considers the frailties of his own marriage after observing a colleague eyeing a group of the colleague's wife's students. A strong sense of style and unfaltering command of his material allow Downs to take the kinds of risks in tone and subject that make his debut a love-it-or-hate-it proposition. (Oct.)

Reviewed on: 08/07/2006
Release date: 00/00/0000
Genre: Fiction
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