cover image Jazz & Twelve O'Clock Tales: New Stories

Jazz & Twelve O'Clock Tales: New Stories

Wanda Coleman, Author . Black Sparrow $24.95 (147p) ISBN 978-1

The sharpest stories from Coleman, a 2001 National Book Award finalist in poetry for Mercurochrome , provide unsettlingly familiar portraits of lonely people attempting to negotiate difficult, mostly urban lives. Her characters torment each other, yield to socioeconomic pressures, talk wildly at times and never quite fit in. In “My Son, My Son,” a cab driver picks up a woman on her way to meet her son at the airport, and the only certainties that can be gleaned from what she says and does are her wealth and her derangement. In “Purgatory,” a woman puts herself in prison for reasons that remain ambiguous; the solitude offers her “time to do some deep exploration.” Stylized phrasing threatens to carry off stories like “Jazz at Twelve,” about a jazz musician who never gets proper recognition, or “Hibernation,” a portrayal of a young woman ready for love but unable to find the right partner. “Backcity Transit by Day” is among the more abstractly painterly pieces, until its gruesome end. Coleman offers a set of searching, reflective voices moving from mellifluous to dramatically blunt. (0ct.)