cover image What Do You Want from Me? and Fifteen Other Storie

What Do You Want from Me? and Fifteen Other Storie

Doris Dorrie. Alfred A. Knopf, $19 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-679-40092-9

German filmmaker Dorrie, author of Love, Pain and the Whole Damned Thing , is above all a detached observer of people. Adopting a nearly journalistic style, she uses these 16 stories to examine a sideshow assortment of displaced people who long for connections. In ``What Do You Do When I'm Gone?'' a woman who spies on her husband discovers him alone, dressed in her clothes, looking happy and ``more beautiful'' than herself. The protagonist of ``I'm Sorry,'' a German woman who has brought her American boyfriend home to meet her mother, must act as interpreter between the two. She translates wildly, explaining Calvin's ``I'd love to go for a walk'' as ``He likes your raspberry pudding,'' only to complain a few pages later that ``No one believes anything I say.'' Dorrie's view of people is deeply ironic, weighted with a German sensibility that tinges relationships with a sense of despair and futility. There is a feeling of cold-eyed documentation here, akin to Diane Arbus's photographing of pathetic fat women in tiny apartments. It's not clear if Dorrie has any ambition for her characters to climb out of their various sloughs of despond and, much as the reader might admire Dorrie's adroitness, the bleakness, tempered only by pity (as opposed to empathy), makes this collection hard to enjoy. (May)