cover image If the River Was Whiskey: 2stories

If the River Was Whiskey: 2stories

T. Coraghessan Boyle. Viking Books, $17.95 (240pp) ISBN 978-0-670-82690-2

The pleasure of pure storytelling makes Boyle's new collection of fiction a joy to read. The author ( World's End ) filters a diverse cast of characters through his witty, relentless narrative voice. Employing parody, social satire and traditional storytelling methods, Boyle's 16 stories invoke vastly different fictional worlds. The author gives us a death-defying stuntman (in ``Human Fly''), a fast-talking pitchman briefing the Ayatollah on how to improve his image (``Hard Sell''), a businessman who sells his soul to the devil (``The Devil and Irv Cherniske''), a New York construction worker's vision of the Virgin at a religious shrine in Ireland (``The Miracle at Ballinspittle''), even a young man romancing a woman pathologically afraid of germs (``Modern Love''). All of these stories seem fueled by the writer's own curiosity about people and places, but a few, unfortunately, read like throwaways. These stand out because most of the book is so full of diversity, wit and daring. 25,000 first printing; author tour. (May)