cover image Stories Anthr Language

Stories Anthr Language

Yannick Murphy. Alfred A. Knopf, $15.95 (143pp) ISBN 978-0-394-55707-6

Murphy's fictional debut evinces a deadpan voice that powerfully taps the interior world of emotions and thoughts. Though they are evocative and intriguing, however, these experiments with language do not add up to substantive short stories. Many of the 17 pieces are fragmentary; the last contribution, ""The Killer,'' is a mere paragraph. The author is clearly fascinated with the dynamics of death: in ``The Slit,'' ``The Summer the Men Landed on the Moon'' and ``A Good Father,'' a child protagonist observes how adults deal with the death of another child; the first-person young narrator of ``Where Dead Is Best,'' puts his head through the noose that hanged a neighbor. Another favorite theme is incest (``a father and a daughter courting until death made them part'' in ``Ball and Socket,'' and between siblings in ``Headdress''). Murphy masterfully recreates childhood games and family idiosyncrasies, and her keen eye for small, mundane details captures the likes of bumper stickers and stretch marks (``all of the places on her skin that showed you she had children, like the rings on the insides of trees or the squares on turtles''). Unfortunately, many readers will conclude that Murphy's stories are written in another language, a private, inscrutable tongue. (May 28)