Distance No Object: Stories

Gloria Frym, Author City Lights Books $10.95 (168p) ISBN 978-0-87286-358-3
Frym turns an unflinching eye on human interaction, capturing casual and intimate exchanges between strangers on trains, estranged husbands and wives and errant children and their parents in this sensitive and assured collection of 24 short stories. Looming in the background is Berkeley, Calif., its latitudinarian, countercultural past fading as it morphs into an ominous refuge for those who have fallen between the cracks, where people can be ""robbed at gunpoint by three guys who pulled up alongside them in a Volvo."" In ""Tagging,"" a middle-aged ex-hippie couple on the verge of divorce move into a swankier neighborhood in North Berkeley, where the neighbors' nosy insolence hastens the decline of their marriage. A young girl in ""The Stick,"" a gentle coming-of-age story, awakens to her own sexuality in an innocent, teasing encounter with a boy she has known since birth. Frym focuses on sensitive social issues, and when she avoids polemics, her politically charged narratives are among her best. "" `To See Her in Sunlight Was to See Marxism Die' "" wittily equates communism and the end of a marriage. The title story, in contrast, leans toward preachy heavy-handedness, as an unemployed immigrant's exuberant inner life is stifled by an interview with an indifferent bureaucrat. Frym's prose reveals her roots in poetry (she has published three books of verse), and her stories are sometimes more suggestive than substantial. But the collection never shies away from difficult realities. In its certainty that ""a person can't go about their own business without disturbing the social order,"" it expresses the essence of engaged lives. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 01/04/1999
Release date: 01/01/2001
Genre: Fiction
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