cover image Without a Hero: 9and Other Stories

Without a Hero: 9and Other Stories

T. Coraghessan Boyle. Viking Books, $21.95 (256pp) ISBN 978-0-670-84963-5

Most effective of the 16 technically ingenious and rudely funny, satirical stories in Boyle's fourth collection are the sketches of disaffected individuals who take refuge in hermetic surroundings, self-help programs, political causes and conspicuous consumption to hold at bay the banal world of convention and compromise. In ``Big Game,'' Bernard Puff, impressario of Puff's African Game Ranch in Bakersfield, Calif., peddles a simulacrum of the African bush. His carefully nurtured fantasy world is punctured by the arrival of a cynical young real estate mogul who detects ``every crack in the plaster,'' and whose rapacious hunting leads to a grisly twist of fate when the animals revolt on the veldt. In ``Filthy with Things,'' a pathological couple whose home is sinking under the weight of their ``collectibles'' enlists the services of an evangelical professional organizer who banishes them to a ``nonacquisitive environment'' while she takes inventory of their astounding clutter (``three hundred and nine bookends, forty-seven rocking chairs and over two thousand plates, cups and saucers''). Other poignant tales tell of an ephemeral romance between a Russian and an American, the introduction of anti-drug rhetoric in a suburban grade school and the experience of growing up in postwar suburbia, a world Boyle regards with anxiety, nostalgia and a properly grim sense of humor. (May)