by Russell Banks ‧ RELEASE DATE: Oct. 16, 1981
Impressive novelist Banks (Hamilton Stark, The Book of Jamaica) has decided, it seems, not to write a novel this time. Instead he has made a series of linked but nonchronological short stories all set in a New Hampshire trailerpark--a place full of such diverse types as: an eccentric woman who keeps hundreds of guinea pigs; a dope dealer; a girl who's seen Jesus; and an old loner of great integrity who wins the New Hampshire lottery but would rather icefish. A few of these stories, by themselves, are quite striking. In ""Dis Bwoy, Him Gwan,"" the dope dealer meets a violent end. In ""The Burden,"" a father finally locks out his shiftless son once and for all (an act which is deepened when you recall, from an earlier story in the book, that the father subsequently killed himself). And in ""The Child Screams and Looks Back At You,"" Banks captures a parent's nightmare--a boy's death from meningitis. But the mosaic technique itself, more than any individual tile, is what appears to interest Banks most, allowing him to play moral referee from a slightly above-it-all level, repeatedly injecting a wise, compassionate, New England voice into the proceedings: ""The conceit that certain people, especially female people, resemble certain flowers is not very original, but then, it's not without its uses either. Especially if you can obtain enough significant information about the flower to gain at the same time significant information about the person."" And, since one of the most attractive things about Banks' talent is its underplaying and reticence, this multi-level perspective is not without interest. On the other hand, however, the approach here also makes the characters down below have to function as illustrations, as primal types; and this mythic determinism, along with the spotty effect of characters reappearing (sometimes re-identified, sometimes not), rubs away a lot of the mirrory surface that made Banks' last two books so beguiling--replacing mysterious vertigo with puppetry. Talented work from a special writer, yet somehow it all misses by a hair.
Pub Date: Oct. 16, 1981
Page Count: -
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1981
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