cover image In a Bear's Eye

In a Bear's Eye

Yannick Murphy, . . Dzanc, $13.95 (147pp) ISBN 978-0-9793123-1-1

In 24 brief, impressionistic tales, Murphy (Signed, Mata Hari ) delivers an emotional wallop. The title story concerns a widow and her young son attempting to carry on after the suicide of the husband and father—and finding a watchful bear's presence near their house more protective than menacing. “Pan, pan, pan,” one of the longer stories, is named for the urgency call emitted by a plane that crashes near a lake where a family of three along with the brother-in-law is vacationing. The narrator is the nervous wife, whose small son is enthralled both by the overbearing brother-in-law and by details of the plane crash. Some of the stories capture a vernacular quirkiness, such as “Lester,” a stream-of-consciousness narrative by an angry urban dweller who's bitter that he'll never get to see the palm trees of Barbados, or the sky's constellations (the “Big Zipper,” he calls one of them), for that matter. Similarly, in “The Beauty in Bulls,” two men carry on a perpendicular conversation, one about bullfighting, the other about the rapturous body of a woman, that eventually dovetails into a testosterone-charged assertion of power and might. Murphy's tight, sharp sense of composition and tone renders these short takes more than mere formal exercises. (Feb.)