cover image High Spirits

High Spirits

David Huddle. David R. Godine Publisher, $17.95 (259pp) ISBN 978-0-87923-735-6

Marital slippage, student-teacher relationships, love or failure to connect, and homophobia are some of the themes in Huddle's ( Only the Little Bone ) finely crafted, intertwined stories. Gangling saxophonist Billy Hyatt faces a teenage paternity dispute, decided on a coin toss, in ``Playing,'' a wry look at adolescent sexuality and growing up in the 1950s. We meet Billy again in the title story, by then a college sophomore in Virginia, coping with his band manager's obsessive extracurricular mating with high-school students. Huddle brings empathetic humor and gimlet insight to unusual situations: a disheveled artist gets an Episcopalian deaconess to pose nude for him; a married musician's sexual feelings for a lesbian trumpet student blind him to her suicidal impulses; a Boston stripper of American Indian descent maintains her dignity under the scrutiny of a young Harvard sociologist doing field research. Several of these 11 stories succeed by quiet understatement, such as ``Underwater Spring,'' in which a mother abandons her small son to the care of his great-aunts. (Aug.)