Public Landing Revisited: Short Stories

Robert Phillips, Author Story Line Press $19.95 (208p) ISBN 978-0-934257-78-7
In Public Landing, a small town on the eastern shore of Maryland, the annual Watermelon Festival (with the concomitant choosing of a Watermelon Queen) is the major event of the year. Phillips has visited this rural community in an earlier collection, The Land of Lost Content ; the 12 stories here tell mostly of losers and disappointment--a JFK-lookalike whose life is haunted by the assassination in Dallas, a scissor-sharpener whose business fades away with the coming of stainless steel. Exploring the pain we inflict on one another carelessly, inadvertently, and the way it has of coming back to us, Phillips's vison of small-town America in the '50s and '60s is simultaneously jaundiced and nostalgic. The most optimistic story, ``The Hateful Word,'' is almost too forgiving; the best, ``Grand Margaret,'' about a would-be classical pianist whose eccentric grandmother gets him a disastrous audition for Ted Mack's Amateur Hour , is both funny and agonizing in its complex mingling of hope and humiliation. The somber tone of the stories taken as a whole is relieved by flashes of brilliance throughout. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 07/29/1991
Release date: 08/01/1991
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