Characters on the Loose

Janet Kauffman, Author Graywolf Press $12.95 (183p) ISBN 978-1-55597-252-3
""It takes fifteen years to know where you are, and to know if it makes sense to be there."" So says Baku, leader of an immigrant support group in Battle Creek, Mich. In ""Baku's Theory,"" as in all of the pithy, minimal stories in the latest collection from Kauffman (The Body in Four Parts; Obscene Gestures for Women), even lifelong Midwesterners need help making sense of where they are. All the characters are looking for roots, for rituals to order their lives. Yet they impart the sense that everyday life in the rural Midwest can be as flaky and layered as a Danish pastry. In ""Red At Risk,"" a couple spends a mid-summer's day not ""really celebrating anything... just having a day when nobody had to go anywhere or do anything and we weren't in a war zone either and we weren't starving."" Lighthearted sketches like the giddily pornographic ""26 Acts in 26 Letters"" alternate with poignant pieces like ""What Lies Ahead,"" the tale of a child-woman learning about life unwittingly, thanks to a pregnancy. In ""The Ocean With Everything In It,"" a newspaper feature causes a man to reconsider his vision of humanity. The deceptively complex vision Kauffman expresses in this slim collection, some pieces of which have appeared in various literary quarterlies, will coax readers into territory that is not as homely and familiar as it seems. (May)
Reviewed on: 03/31/1997
Release date: 04/01/1997
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 978-1-55579-252-7
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