Ten stories—mainly from the viewpoint of a boy growing up in a southern town—that are evocative and poetic, but more sketches than fully realized fictions. Mark Random is a sour, not-very-likable boy who comes of age in a family where there's an intense sibling rivalry with brother Luke and where Sweet Lucy Wine of the title lives with the family for a couple of crucial years. The best of the stories here try to come to Joycean epiphanies, but don't quite get there: ``Anders'' is a slight school-days reminiscence; ``Tidewater'' is about catching condoms while fishing and about a near-drowning that leads to nothing; ``Luke'' develops the parameters of the sibling rivalry, which is central to these stories; the title piece uses flirtation, desire, and jealousy in equal portions, all centered on Sweet Lucy, a self-described ``connoisseur of television''; and ``Mr. Mann'' forces Mark to understand that the world is at least as gritty and uncontrollable as it is romantic and voyeuristic. All of these have the easy lyrical grace of a longtime poet but tend to hover more than develop or resolve. ``Rafer McBride,'' a portrait of a boy possessed by an easy authority—the small-time equivalent of a big man on campus—is more pungent and energetic. ``Homespun'' effects a reconciliation between the brothers; it has psychic weight by virtue of its attempt to sum up lives—the father's office and warehouse are deserted, Luke's own son has not yet found his own life. The two last stories, ``Dupo'' and ``Easy,'' leave the family chronicle, the former to give good weight as a lively dialect piece, the latter to bore with a tedious account of a contest between bartenders. Stuart's debut collection settles for being ``a series of perceptions,'' some originally published in Pembroke magazine, Chattahoochee Review, and the like.
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