cover image The Universe and Other Fictions

The Universe and Other Fictions

Paul West. Overlook Press, $17.95 (224pp) ISBN 978-0-87951-303-0

Paul West (Rat Man of Paris, The Very Rich Hours of Count Von Stauffenberg) gathers here 18 of his supercharged fictions from 1966 to the '80s. West is a gifted wordslinger. In the title story, the Universe speaks, as if recorded on a cassette tape, punning along the way on the ""verse'' in universe. Another galactic tale, ``Life with Atlas,'' features the god talking about his work, his mythical family and his neuroses, while ``The Sun in Heat'' carries on with witty wantonness about the big star's lust for another celestial body, a ``star-slut.'' West's variety of voices includes Moby's monologue in ``Captain Ahab: A Novel by the White Whale,'' where the albino mammal sings of her love for Ahab, now tied bodily to her forever. ``How to Marry a Hummingbird,'' the earliest and most realistic of the stories, gets inside the head of a woman who, not wanting to bear her faithless husband's child, takes desperate steps. Two outstanding narratives, ``The Glass Bottomed Boat'' and ``The Season of the Single Women,'' reveal the seething, misdirected restlessness of a black Caribbean man. Overall, the collection is marked by West's astounding flare for the outrageous and the fantastic. His turbulent verbal play proves an apt medium for his wonder at ``the insolent profusion of things.'' (April)