cover image Drowning Lessons

Drowning Lessons

Peter Selgin, . . Univ. of Georgia, $24.95 (235pp) ISBN 978-0-8203-3210-9

The stories in Selgin's often masterful debut collection (winner of the Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction) focus on faulty passions and dysfunctional romances. The most wickedly satisfying is “My Search for Red and Gray Wide-Striped Pajamas,” describing the affair between Steven, a poor second-generation Greek immigrant, and his “pudgy” first cousin Marcia. Steven squirrels away the cash his wily Uncle Nick provides in exchange for wooing Marcia but instead of the requisite wining and dining, Steven takes her virginity, followed by repeated dates on the Staten Island Ferry. In another vein, Selgin explores the idea of woman as woeful mirage. In “Color of the Sea,” Karina, an enticing Brazilian tourist, goes on a road trip through Crete with the narrator. But Karina, like a glammed up Helen of Troy, leaves our increasingly disillusioned protagonist with nothing but frustration and a bruised heart. Less original, and far less engrossing, are Selgin's depictions of brotherly relations and male camaraderie (“The Wolf House,” “Boy B”). Here, his voice is whiny and sophomoric, starkly at odds with the poignant, evocative prose of the other stories. (Oct. 15)