THE BEST OF ANIMALS

Lauren Grodstein, Author . Persea $23.95 (224p) ISBN 978-0-89255-281-8

Grodstein captures the uncertain nuances of the mating game in her impressive debut collection, consisting of 10 lively, smart stories that focus on 20-something men and women in urban settings who are trying to reconcile their ambivalent feelings for one another. "Lonely Planet" exemplifies Grodstein's modus operandi perfectly, as a young ad executive consoles the guy she yearns for after he breaks up with his new love, then assuages her own loneliness by slipping into bed with him after a night of drinking. "On the Side" explores a similar motif from a male perspective, as a young married man with some serious fidelity issues goes out to buy cold medicine for his sick wife and purchases a package of condoms while torturing himself with vivid images of her imagined betrayals. "Yellow Morning" offers yet another take on the jealousy angle when a woman delays her visit to see her best friend, Caitlin, whose mother is dying, because she finally acknowledges to herself that Caitlin has casually seduced the only two men the narrator cared for. Grodstein tends toward bleakness, but she does have a romantic streak that she indulges quite successfully in "John on the Train: A Fable for Our Cynical Friends," a touching yarn about a young magazine editor who pines for a fellow passenger after he experiences love at first sight on a New York subway. Grodstein's quirky voice and sassy, ironic humor make these stories come alive, and she uses first-person narration to create unusual, believable characters. Her voice becomes a bit familiar and redundant over the course of the collection, but that trait would probably serve her well as a novelist if she decides to try long-form narrative. Agent, Julie Baxter. (June 25)

Reviewed on: 05/13/2002
Release date: 06/01/2002
Paperback - 182 pages - 978-0-89255-305-1
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