cover image A War of Eyes and Other Stories

A War of Eyes and Other Stories

W. Coleman, Author, Wanda Coleman, Author Black Sparrow Press

Coleman ( Heavy Daughter Blues, etc.) pens knowing tales of the black urban poor, describing hardworking waitresses looking for a way out, a man who literally starves himself to death supporting a luxury car, and a future world where the lower classes must pay the government or be executed. Her best pieces, such as ``Dream 5281,'' about a group of women accosted by toughs, and ``The Big Little Gang,'' concerning underage criminals, are distinguished by smooth plotting, effective suspense and deft characterization. The title story, a psychological fantasy, is both striking and elegant, while the delightful ``Take It Up at the Bridge'' succeeds as a jazz riff in words. All too often, however, the narration waxes amateurish and stilted, the action is jarring and the principals fail to ring true. An egregious example is ``Reba,'' in which the heroine's odd behavior is explained by the revelation that she has eaten her baby. A more restrained editorial focus would have resulted in a slimmer volume and a better showcase for Coleman's talents. (August)