cover image Verging on the Pertinent

Verging on the Pertinent

Carol Emshwiller. Coffee House Press, $9.95 (144pp) ISBN 978-0-918273-57-4

A wife leaves her ``overbearing, legal, lord and master'' husband and cuddles up for the winter with a bear, but, come springtime, the faithless animal takes a powder, leaving her to wonder: ``Where is the creature with which she can live happily ever after?'' Confused with a similarly named eminent professor, an aging, washed-out woman is invited to give the keynote address at a symposium on modern linguistics--and accepts. Elsewhere, ``the largest woman in the world'' hunches her shoulders and squats down, and ``becomes almost accessible to the average man. But even so, if one of these days this average man or even some other above-average and taller man takes a liking to her, sooner or later he will notice that she makes him look small even when he is standing in the foreground. But then, she doesn't expect real love, though perhaps marriage is not out of the question.'' The author of the acclaimed Joy in Our Cause skewers artistic pretension and chauvinistic men in her often pungent satires and allegories. But the recurring conceit of outsize or otherworldly women and feckless, irrelevant men wears thin and enervates the author's quirky and clever sensibility. (Dec.)