How to Leave a Country

Cris Mazza, Author Coffee House Press $11.95 (180p) ISBN 978-0-918273-96-3
Mazza's ( Animal Acts ) engaging and innovative novel won the PEN/as with PEN/Faulkner?/slash seems fine to me/pk Nelson Algren Award for Fiction. The story centers on Tara, an artist who has none of her own memories--only those of Phelan, the man with whom she lives. as is, seems to say that all she remembers is Phelan, not that she has Phelan's memories She does not remember her childhood or her career as a painter. When she writes her biography for a magazine, it begins, ``Being both born and raised, Ms. Katz now resides.'' The amnesia device becomes a means of exploring themes of love, memory and healing. Alternating between Tara's frustrations at knowing nothing of her own life and her extended forays into Phelan's memories, the novel offers rich and haunting passages of prose. Chapters devoted to Phelan's stint as an orderly in a nursing home and the friendship he develops with a patient slipping into lonely senility and death are especially strong. In another section Mazza highlights an incident of Phelan's sexual curiosity, mixing confusion and revulsion with a deft eye for psychological detail. The book ends on its most hilarious note with Tara recalling Phelan's coming to grips with his adult identity while living in an apartment full of bed-hopping expatriate bohemians in Brazil. (May)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1992
Release date: 01/01/1992
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