cover image Barking Man and Other Stories

Barking Man and Other Stories

Madison Smartt Bell. Ticknor & Fields, $19.95 (230pp) ISBN 978-0-89919-835-4

With this new collection, Bell ( Soldier's Joy ; Zero db and Other Stories ) expands his territory, in both geographic and interior landscapes, and claims a place among our most accomplished writers. From the meticulously imagined perspective of a monk-like Chinese mouse, who accepts the exigencies of caged life with courage and admirable intelligence (``Holding Together''), to the frustrations and sorrow of a young former drug addict trying to regain custody of her son in ``Customs of the Country,'' Bell creates characters whose circumstances and states of mind are both recognizable and revealing. Their wide spectrum ranging from the urban homeless in `` Move On Up'' and `` Finding Natasha '' to the tobacco farmer turned dog trainer turned boarder of juvenile incorrigibles ( `` Black and Tan '') and the old sculptress of the estimable `` Dragon Seed'' (she communes with a pair of private demons and wreaks appropriate vengeance on a child pornographer), the people in these stories exert an irresistible pull. Save for an occasional unconvincing coincidence, Bell takes us to Manhattan, to his native South, to the French Riviera with its whisper of music, to London--altogether a memorable tour. (Apr.)