The Dutchman Died, and Other Tales of Pittsburgh's Southside

J. Fred Lissfelt, Author University of Pittsburgh Press $29.95 (135p) ISBN 978-0-8229-3726-5
These stories, set in a German neighborhood in Pittsburgh at the turn of the century, are populated by sharp-eyed and sharp-tongued gossips. Like them, the ten tales discuss the behavior of each character, such as the piano teacher who ``gave lessons for fifty cents--the jokers used to say sixty cents if you used the pedal'' and two sister house painters who ``taunted young girls and boys about their awkwardness, belittled the great and blamed the poor.'' At first the character studies are amusing but soon all of the personalities sound alike, and an absence of action causes the stories to drag. Most end with someone's unexpected death, and many contain elements of the supernatural: a flame is seen wandering around a cemetery at night, and when it finally disappears, the wires from a woman's funeral flowers are discovered fused together on her grave. In another story it is revealed that a man's breath contains healing powers. Lissfelt's (1886-1965) detached narrative voice creates a sense of distance, and even the cultural details lack specifics. Except for the use of a few German expressions, the stories in this reissue could be about almost any immigrant neighborhood of that period. Illustrated. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1992
Release date: 01/01/1992
Paperback - 135 pages - 978-0-8229-5483-5
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