A disappointing sixth collection from Weaver (A World Quite Round, Getting Serious, etc.), particularly after the exuberant tour de force of his most recent novel (The Eight Corners of the World, 1988). With the exception of the novella, these seven instances of men at their emotional limits ends with Weaver's creativity at its lowest ebb. ``Under the World,'' the novella, is an inventive Vietnam fable about a short man who is recruited to infiltrate North Vietnam's vast system of underground tunnels and who decides never to come out: ``I didn't go back to The World because I wanted to keep on being who I am. Me. Huff.'' Here, there's a satisfying diversity of incident and a good deal of wordplay, as though Weaver's heart these days is in longer fictions. In the meantime, ``Whiskey, Whiskey, Gin, Gin, Gin'' is ``a kind of collage'' in which an alcoholic narrator's family history-like father, like son, carried through two generations-is structured as a pseudo-confession to a third party, presumably a counselor or therapist; ``Zen Golf'' is a familiar take on a man, failing at 43, who takes up golf to find ``wholeness.'' The plot escalates until the man loses all interest in anything but the nirvana he finds on the course, where he ``becomes'' the golf ball; ``The Good Man of Stillwater, Oklahoma'' is a slice-of- life, with pretensions to fabulism, about a man whose life as an Allstate employee is disrupted by drought, invasions of snakes and locusts, and tornadoes before a rhetorical apocalyptic finish; ``Turner's Dream'' goes inward to reveal the bleak life of a man who dreams of his dead parents and faces family problems by slipping into solipsism. At best, Weaver is struggling in these shorter fictions to find a new direction; at low ebb, but a fine craftsman work. Some of the pieces appeared in Quarterly West, Western Humanities Review, and Pushcart Prize X.
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