by Jennifer Egan ‧ RELEASE DATE: Feb. 1, 1996
The author of the novel The Invisible Circus (1994) collects 11 somewhat strained stories that seem suited to the glossy venues in which they first appeared (e.g., GQ and Mademoiselle): They're slick if utterly predictable lifestyle studies that entertain very conventional notions of conformity and wildness. Most often, Egan's financially successful protagonists yearn for the simplicity or adventure of their previous lives. In ""Why China?,"" an unhappy stock trader--who's being investigated for improprieties--takes his family to remote China on vacation partly to recapture his former bohemian self. Similarly, ""The Watch Trick"" compares the lives of two army buddies, one settled into a stable married life, the other still living from scam to scam. The title story concerns the other side of the dream, when desire still motivates the young and ambitious--in this case, a photographer's assistant and his wannabe-model girlfriend. It's sort of a morality tale (being beautiful isn't always enough) for the Seventeen set. Egan's stronger pieces are told from a young girl's point of view and usually involve some sort of small, if intense, revelation: discovering that her father is unfaithful to her long-suffering mother (""Puerta Vallarta""); that she can redeem her older brother from his guilt over their mother's death (""One Piece""); that her mother's second husband is really a nice guy (""Sacred Heart""); and that maybe life isn't so bad as a ""watcher"" rather than a ""doer"" of wild stunts. Egan also worries a lot about older women cast aside by their successful husbands: the ex-wife of the investment banker who long condescended to the woman passed around by her husband's friends only to find that he too had been with her (""Passing the Hat""); and the 32-year-old divorcâ€še of ""Spanish Winter"" who sleeps around Spain, giving up on life until she hooks up with a shady investor on the run. The lure of adventure and the lust for wealth in Egan's schematic little fictions are just yuppie fantasies; she seldom gets beyond the clichâ€šs of money and personal crisis.
Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1996
Page Count: 192
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 1995
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