cover image Batting Against Castro: Stories

Batting Against Castro: Stories

Jim Shepard. Alfred A. Knopf, $22 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-679-44668-2

A memorable cast of characters faces various forms of alienation-psychological, political, physical, economic, social-in 14 alternately humorous and poignant short stories from novelist Shepard. Writing mostly in the first-person, Shepard crafts an astonishing assortment of utterly convincing voices. An apolitical American baseball player finds himself playing in Cuba during Castro's rise. A fighter pilot expounds on the rarefied thrills of flying F-15s. Spending the night with a friend from dance class, a privileged young girl struggles to endure less affluent surroundings. Legendary director F.W. Murnau chronicles his physical and emotional hardships during the shooting of Nosferatu. A self-reliant adult son feels marginalized by the mental illness of his brother. A troubled boy imagines his mother as the Vikings' workhorse running back, himself behind center while his father calls ineffective plays from the sideline as the bruising 1975 Steeler defense batters them after every snap. The division of stories into sections titled ""Strangers"" and ""Family"" proves an unfortunate editorial choice that unbalances the collection, but each of these seamless, insightful narratives stands vividly on its own. One hopes that this collection will send readers in search of Shepard's fine novels (Kiss of the Wolf; Lights Out in the Reptile House, etc.) (June)