cover image The Light of Home: Stories

The Light of Home: Stories

R. C. Binstock. Atheneum Books, $19 (165pp) ISBN 978-0-689-12156-2

In nearly all of the 17 stories in this disappointing debut collection, Binstock portrays a recognizably similar figure: a man of uncertain age who is emotionally and socially adrift, suspended in a state of self-absorption akin to adolescence. Other characters are glimpsed only through the myopic haze in which the protagonist views them himself; for example, there's a recurring doctor-father who has failed his son in some crucial but never specified way. Often the hero displays a powerful, though baffling, effect on others: a string of independent, attractive women--including the lesbian in ``Birdland'' and the artist in ``Detail of Rock and Stream''--at first intimidate, then, inexplicably, throw themselves at him, while for the title character of ``Willie,'' superficial acquaintance with the narrator is enough to give him a nervous breakdown. Plot development is virtually nonexistent here. Instead, lengthy digressions, such as those about baseball in ``Hall of Fame,'' flesh out confused, aimless narratives. The writing is vague and muddled, thick with stilted phrases like ``Living with her is a burden of unwieldy emotion.'' Weighted by so much angst, the collection could have benefited from an ironic presentation; unfortunately, Binstock takes these characters as seriously as they take themselves. (May)