LOOKING FOR WAR: And Other Stories

Douglas Unger, Author . Ontario Review $21.95 (150p) ISBN 978-0-86538-111-7

The bellicose theme of the title novella permeates all eight tales in this occasionally detached collection by Unger (Leaving the Land ; Voices from Silence ). In "Looking for War," an innocent question at a dinner party prompts the narrator to retreat into memories of war in Vietnam and Paraguay ("The smell of blood was everywhere, heavy, iron-filled, vaguely fishy, unmistakably human"), and bitterly judge the callous American insularity of his fellow guests. "The Writer's Widow" is a delicious send-up of the complicated etiquette that rules the writing world, in which the central question is whether "the character of writers has anything to do with their eventual reputations." The perennial dance of human courtship is on display in "Leslie and Sam," as is the heart-wrenching bond between scientists and the primates they use as lab animals. And in "Autobiography" and "Matisse," the author mines his own childhood efficiently and chillingly, portraying irresponsible grown-ups who lambaste their children with "heavy boozy blasts of their unhappiness." Overwrought language ("Resentment was like a black spider spinning away inside their love," from "Tide Pool") detracts in a few of the narratives, and the strangely distant authorial voice creates a barrier to true connection. The interesting settings and involved characters, however, demand attention with their colorful flourishes and voices. Agent, Nina Collins. (May)

Reviewed on: 05/10/2004
Release date: 04/01/2004
Genre: Fiction
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