A first collection of 17 stories that's very much a first collection: some top-drawer touching stories, told from both male and female perspectives, and some cluttered or sparse pieces—all mostly about loneliness and the distance between people. Mood is a priority here. In ``A Circular Shore,'' for instance, a narrator describes Rachel, five, deserted by her mother, in delicate pastel colors and finishes with an Ann Beattie- like summarizing image: ``We both move, weightless, in very small circles, like tandem moons around a star.'' Sometimes such a straining after emotional resonance comes off; at other times, it feels precious. Often, the difference depends upon the significance of the story's occasion: In ``To Be At Home,'' Binstock is moving because she manages to bring together a divorced couple on the occasion of the death of the ex-husband's mother. The man and woman must thus deal with their own feelings and also minister to the ex- husband's father in a situation where ``the world had changed overnight.'' In ``Birdland,'' a narrator alone in his wife's hometown visits a woman too much alone who was once, briefly, his wife's lover, and the possibility of a one-night stand with her forces him to define the limits of his life. But others, like ``Cheaters and Liars, Robbers and Fools,'' are too slight; the latter sketches a portrait of a divorced woman who ``feels that a shimmering curtain, rolled up to the sky, is about to descend....'' ``Willie,'' much too long, is about a narrator on a new job as a technical writer who is intrigued with Willie: office politics and slice-of-life stretch out for pages without illuminating anything. But ``Hall of Fame,'' a memoir about a father centered on baseball, retrieves meaning from a chaos of instances. Binstock has a deft touch at best—but is too interested in withholding vital information for the sake of a minimalist aesthetic.
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