cover image Dome of the Hidden Pavilion

Dome of the Hidden Pavilion

James Tate. Ecco, $25.99 (160p) ISBN 978-0-06-239920-5

Tate (1943–2015), winner of the 1991 Pulitzer Prize and 1994 National Book Award, interrupts small-town life’s sense of normalcy and stability with the absurd and the surprising in his new collection of short, narrative verse vignettes. He also manages to maintain a strong stylistic consistency without going stale—quite the feat considering the deadpan dialogue and recurring motifs, such as war and domestic spats. But Tate’s (The Eternal Ones of the Dream) masterly storytelling keeps things fresh; even when the reader can anticipate the inevitable absurdist twist in a piece, its delivery is always interesting. Sometimes the oddity is a stranger passing through: “I was sitting on the porch when I watched my neighbors’/ kids walk by on their way to school. One of them turned and waved/ to me. I waved back. That’s when I realized they were zombies.” Other times the odd man out is the protagonist’s thoughts: “My neighbor, Ted, walked over. ‘Are you all right? I saw that/ through my bedroom window. I couldn’t believe it,’ he said. ‘Oh, that was just an imaginary moose. It wasn’t a real one,’ I said.” Tate’s style will be recognizable to readers of his recent few books, but even those unfamiliar should find this whip-smart collection a joy to read. [em](Aug.) [/em]