Shine On, Bright and Dangerous Object was the title of Colwin's first novel; and her work has gone on to define that...



Shine On, Bright and Dangerous Object was the title of Colwin's first novel; and her work has gone on to define that ""object"" as a sort of better sense--comic, in stubborn equilibrium--which detaches and hovers over her outlook on romance. Thus, a Colwin short story is usually made of little, impasto-ish clusters of paragraph-sized impressions with little dialogue--and the effect is occasionally scrunched-up cute but nearly always amusingly equable. . . as Colwin rides along the same track of wan cheeriness as does John Cheever (minus Cheever's nightmares at the end of the line). The bright, normal, monied (married or unmarried) women in these stories are continually having their pleasant-enough status quo disturbed by men who say some oddly candid (thus charming) thing to them; the now-suddenly-disordered women fall, skewered in love; and a new, iffy decorum then locks into place. Six of these tales, in fact--""The Lone Pilgrim,"" ""Sentimental Memory,"" ""Intimacy,"" ""A Mythological Subject,"" ""Saint Anthony of the Desert,"" and ""Family Happiness""--are all the same basic story, an appealing one that nevertheless wobbles awfully close to the airless conventions of heartthrob/romance magazine fiction. ""A Girl Skating,"" ""Travel,"" and ""Delia's Father"" are a bit more thematically adventurous, but they seem to lack full conviction in their separate incidents. Slightly darker tones--of failure, even anger--do enter ""The Boyish Lover"" and ""The Smile Beneath the Smile"" (the beautiful young men turn out to be emotional cripples, and the women must withdraw); and these, by contrast, seem very welcome after all the bouncy somersaults of the other stories. But Colwin is essentially a fatalistic optimist, and when her stories are gathered together, the bubbliness seems a little too uniform, closer to gassiness. Hard-workingly adorable fare, then, for those who crave only a wry little lift from fiction; those interested in the richer scope of the short story will continue to find Colwin seriously limited.

Pub Date: Feb. 14, 1980


Page Count: -

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1980