The Middle of Nowhere: Stories

Kent Nelson, Author Peregrine Smith Books $18.95 (197p) ISBN 978-0-87905-398-7
Issued in tandem with Nelson's Language in the Blood (see above), this collection contains 13 finely honed tales, many of which have a Southwest locale. Emotions resonate within a mountainous desert setting--a hauntingly beautiful landscape for which Nelson has a nearly mystical affinity; and humans respond to the vulnerability of animals. The extraordinary title story centers on Steve, 17, a pensive dropout living with his widowed father in a trailer outside Tucson who shyly dodges the lures of his dad's girlfriends. In ``The Trogon Dish,'' a tourist who has refused to buy a memento admired by his wife is moved by the plight of a dying dog. Macho hunters pick up two girls in a bar (``The Spirits of Animals''); one of them saves an antelope from the men's arrows. Males in predatory groups also figure in ``The Tarpon Bet,'' in which three fishermen wager the catch of the day against their wives' favors, and in the stunning ``Absences,'' about a deadly jail riot. Men are racked and baffled by the secret needs of the independent women they love in ``Discoveries,'' in which outdoorsman Jack reads his literary girlfriend's journal, and in ``Invisible Life,'' about a wife who leaves for Harvard. The author, however, is less successful in his exploration of female points of view (``I Had to Do Something'' and ``A Country of My Own Making''). Nelson's sensitively crafted fiction draws its strength from immersion in the natural scene, its intensity diminishing when he uses other backdrops. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 09/30/1991
Release date: 10/01/1991
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