Mary Woronov, Author . Serpent's Tail $14 (148p) ISBN 978-1-85242-807-5

Woronov, an actress (Eating Raoul ), director (Women ) and author (Snake ; Niagara ), casts a jaded eye on love in this sharp, spare collection. Most of the 22 stories take place in the dark, slightly desolate landscape of the lonely female mind (though outside it's often sunny L.A.). In "Jack, Part One" and "Jack, Part Two," a woman's enduring love for a legendary skirt-chaser is finally—but perhaps only momentarily—requited. In "Martha," a wife who thinks she's been chosen because "she had the perfect look for the furniture in [her husband's] new home," tries to forget her sorrows with gallons of booze and a doomed affair. Tales sometimes end mid-scene, or start and end on a single topic; metaphors dazzle but sometimes fail ("the hammock next to me split open like a cell dividing and multiplying. Out tumbled an Indian girl"). The more engaging stories are set outside L.A.—in an unglamorous, small Florida town ("The Alligator Man") or the steamy jungle ("The Amazon"). The narrator of the former, who takes up with the titular carnival worker, becomes known as the Electric Girl and savors her audience's "little gasp of fear, how precious and to what lengths one would have to go to catch one of these rare sounds." In "The Amazon," a woman and her mysteriously ill husband take a long-awaited vacation that ends ambiguously for both. Though there are scintillating moments in here, readers may feel that by packing 22 stories into 160 pages, Woronov has chosen speed and flash over depth and resonance. (Mar.)

Reviewed on: 03/01/2004
Release date: 03/01/2004
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