Marshall Boswell, Author . Algonquin/Shannon Ravenel $23.95 (320p) ISBN 978-1-56512-344-1

Though Boswell imbues this debut collection with infectious energy, the 10 stories are at times disconcertingly slight. The tales follow perpetually angst-ridden Memphis-born Parker Hayes from his youth in the 1970s and 1980s—catching a rare baseball in right field, weathering abuse from his muscle-bound older brother, trying to be a "punk rock jock" to impress his schoolmates—into his adulthood, where graduate school and a series of unfulfilling jobs waiting tables, managing supply companies and selling telephone services leave him feeling lost. As the title suggests, Parker's life is full of romantic complications. In "Venus/Mars," a soon-to-be-married woman takes Parker out drinking, with the notion that her own attractive presence will help him score. "Grub Worm" has Parker trying to get over his disappointment in love by sleeping with his love object's sorority sister—to his humiliation. Parker rises to the challenge of a long-term relationship in the volume's last story, "Spanish Omens"—only to compromise this progress through romantic misjudgments that threaten to spoil his honeymoon in Spain. If Parker has trouble with girls, however, Boswell himself has trouble writing about them. His female characters are often stereotypes: the unapproachable beauty, the angry but sexy punk. Parker's juvenile attitude toward women is plausible, but the book's one-sidedness is frustrating. Still, the dialogue is brisk and clever, and Parker himself is reasonably complex, a young man on the make who slowly gains some measure of insight and maturity. 10-city author tour. (Mar.)

Reviewed on: 03/10/2003
Release date: 03/01/2003
Paperback - 320 pages - 978-0-385-33783-0
Ebook - 320 pages - 978-1-56512-898-9
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