Using a McLuhanesque idea—the notion that, when faced with the totally new, we seek refuge in the past—editor Prior gathers an anthology of short fiction, heavy on contemporary British writers with a handful of somewhat better-known Americans, that looks back to earlier decades with something like nostalgia. Some stories concern a present informed by the past, several are coming-of-age passages: in college, leaving college, first job in the "real" world. Others are more concerned with the dislocation from the familiar confronted by travelers, and some are simply set in the past. In Tony White's "The Jet-Set Girls," in which LSD refers to "pounds, shillings, and pence," a writer recalls a shaping experience with underworld London toughs who demand from him work with extra-literary qualities. Emily Perkins's "Let's Go" is a picaresque about young Bohemian Brits who romp through contemporary Prague acting decidedly un-British. Chris Mazza's "His Helpmate" looks back to the late '70s when, through dubious means, its protagonist secures a spot in a band for her less-than-talented husband. Bidisha's "A Taste of the East" lampoons the academic West's fascination for the East. Pagan Kennedy's "Glitter" recalls a John Waters-like punk era Baltimore, replete with vintage clothing, Russ Meyer movie posters, and a transvestite named Miss Patty. The contributors range in age and experience from the very young Bidisha to the very established Joyce Carol Oates. Regardless, most of their stories burn at the same heat: tepid.
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