Shadow Traffic

Richard Burgin. Johns Hopkins Univ., $30 (280p) ISBN 978-1-4214-0273-4
Burgin (The Conference on Beautiful Moments) taps into humanity at its weakest in his seventh collection of darkly captivating stories. Gritty realistic scenarios, such as “The Dolphin,” in which a bystander attempts to persuade a fellow drinker at a strip club not to murder one of the dancers, mix uneasily with more surreal stories in the style of parables, such as “Memo and Oblivion,” where the world is divided into factions of people who take prescription drugs to either remember or forget. Burgin deftly exposes his characters’ most sacredly held fears with a tenderness that makes the reader exalt in their small triumphs. In one of the standouts, “Mission Beach,” a single father on vacation with his 12-year-old son in San Diego contemplates the breadth of his love for the boy as he spends hours with him in the surf at the expense of a possible romantic interlude. Burgin shows admirable range in this collection, which is hugely varied in both style and form, and while there are clear standouts, there’s not a single throwaway. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 08/29/2011
Release date: 08/01/2011
Genre: Fiction
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