cover image Survival


Nancy Lord, Author Coffee House Press $10.95 (176p) ISBN 978-0-918273-84-0

In 15 stories, Alaska looms as a presence that variously is vast and claustrophobic, dangerous and freeing, exhilarating and depressing. A long-time resident frets over and envies a newcomer whose hunger for wild and solitude defies common sense. Elsewhere, an aging hippy tries to woo his estranged daughter with moosemeat pizza and bleached pelican skull knickknacks, but she's a creature of civilization's comforts, committed to Walkman music and double-scoop ice-cream sundaes. Her husband is away drilling for oil and a resentful wife must cope alone with an erupting volcano; a woman leaves the bush for Anchorage and abandons a friend in the process; a miserly recluse wins the lottery; and a thief discovers his girlfriend can kill without remorse. The prose here is pleasantly understated, the tenor of Alaskan existence often is transmitted (``You don't live in a small Alaskan town for the job you can get; you do whatever job you can in order to be able to live in such a place.'') and many descriptions, such as shrimp processing in an Alaskan cannery, are authentically rendered. But hampered by obvious and trite plotting, the collection doesn't rise above merely competent. A commercial fisherman in Alaska, Lord wrote The Compass Inside Ourselves. (Apr.)