cover image Tuxedo Park

Tuxedo Park

Laura Furman. Summit Books, $17.45 (352pp) ISBN 978-0-671-49754-5

What distinguishes Munro (The Moon of Jupiter from most other contemporary practitioners of short fiction is that she brings to each story a freshness of vision, a breadth of sympathy and a wide-ranging imagination that make her work both unpredictable and scrupulously true. One reads all 11 stories in this collection without ever encountering the stale sense of sameness, the muted cry of alienation, that infuse much of the genre. What is constant here is Munro's understanding of the volatility and ambiguity of human emotions and family relationships. Most of the stories involve flashbacks to events that shape a life, reveal a destiny; all acknowledge the disparity between actual events and the psychological undertow that conditions how one remembers them. With luminously sure images, Munro fixes clear pictures of the small Canadian towns and rural areas that are her milieu. While she writes of ordinary people, she infuses their lives with dignity, universality and meaning. These are people whose hearts are startled or weighed down by the responsibilities of love, or who are silently gnawed by hidden hates and cruelties that warp their souls. One senses Munro's conviction that human nature is mysterious and wonderful. Her stories are magically captivating; they will stand the test of time. (September 15pErdrich's prize-winning first novel, Love Medicine, told of two interlinked Chippewa families both on and off a North Dakota reservation. This second in what is to be a quartet of novels, is, like its predecessor, informed by intelligence and compassion and written with poetic grace. It, too, is a tale of several intermingled lives, takes place over a space of decades and is related from varying points of view. It differs from Love Medicine in having an essentially linear story line and making clear from the outset connections between people, most of whom are not of Indian lineage. While there is a sharper focus and stronger narrative thrust, the novel seems somehow less rich with the chaos of life. The story revolves around Karl and Mary Adare, abandoned as children by their mother; their beautiful, self-absorbed cousin, Sita Kozka; half-Indian Celestine James, who is a friend and eventually a kinsman to both women; Wallace Pfef, lover of Karl, savior of Celestine, and the man who makes Argus the sugar-beet capital of America; and especially Dot, the desperately angry daughter of Karl and Celestine who is to be crowned ""The Beet Queen.'' Unfortunately, the characters are all too neurotic and eccentric to be appealing, though by the end of the narrative we come to view them sympathetically. At once zany and sad, displaying Erdrich's distinctive blend of fantasy and reality, the novel lacks the stunning power of her earlier work, but it gains momentum as it sweeps to its close. Major ad/promo; BOMC and QPBC alternates. (September 15)