cover image Jewel of the Moon

Jewel of the Moon

William Kotzwinkle. Putnam Publishing Group, $14.95 (160pp) ISBN 978-0-399-13113-4

The mystery that attaches to the title of this collection of 15 short tales by the author of E.T. breathes through every story, from the seemingly straightforward ""A Man Who Knew His Birds,'' in which an ornithologist is deceived by a mad old fellow whose throat brims with birdsong, to the title story itself, an exquisite evocation of the deflowering of an Arab virgin by her prince. She becomes the moon and he the heavens, moving in rhythm with each other. In between, the slangy middle-Americanisms of ``Mr. Jones's Convention'' convince the reader that the conventioneer is simply in the clutches of a big-city hookerwho turns out to be a hermaphrodite. Profundity, wit and lore scholarly and exotic jostle one other so provocatively that excitement informs every page, never more urgently than in ``The Day Stokowski Saved the World,'' when two legless beggars propel themselves through the streets of New York and, unknown one to the other, suddenly stop singing their song of hope. These are tales that beg to be read. January 3