cover image Me and My Baby View the Eclipse

Me and My Baby View the Eclipse

Lee Smith. Putnam Publishing Group, $18.95 (206pp) ISBN 978-0-399-13507-1

In Smith's accurately portrayed South ( Fair and Tender Ladies ; Cakewalk ), class consciousness, tradition and a strong sense of place (anybody not born in the South is a ``foreigner'') are of vital importance. Her characters, in blue-collar or the lowest of white-collar jobs, live mundane lives illuminated by flashes of yearning. With few exceptions, the women in these nine short stories have seen one or more marriages collapse; in two of the tales, the protagonists are still stunned by their husbands' departures. These are women trained to be gallant and to carry on; to take care of elderly parents and be polite at all costs. On the other hand, they are inflexible in their desire to preserve the status quo, and are surprised when life runs away from them. Only one character dares to make a break from orderly existence; this is the male protagonist of the touching ``Intensive Care''--who leaves his wife and children and marries a waitress. One story, parodying a Silhouette romance, is unsuccessful; the others gain significance from Smith's insights and the graceful, effortless prose that places her characters firmly in their regional--yet universal--milieu. (Feb.)