CAMARO CITY by Alan Sternberg


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 In his first collection of short stories, award-winning journalist Sternberg writes with unsentimental understanding about working-class life in Connecticut. These ten stories evoke a world filled with good, hard-working people who merely get by and teenagers doomed to repeat the failures of their parents. The factories have been closed, so there is little work, and the work that can be found is purposeless and degrading. In ``Airport Beach,'' Zanske the school attendance officer continues to pursue persistent truants although he knows it does no good; and in ``Moose,'' Bruce Barmusch is shot while attempting to fine someone for illegally dumping garbage. Both Zanske and Barmusch find joy in unusual occurrences, even pedestrian ones, that break the monotony of their routine. Bill Stankowski derives his pleasure from avoiding disaster, as he narrowly does in ``Splat,'' and in keeping his family together, while in ``Bilt-Rite,'' Ralph Correggio can't manage to hold his extended family of employees together when he is forced to close his construction business. If the adults are all slightly disappointed, the teenagers in the book have adopted that disappointment, in addition to being typically self-destructive: In ``Blazer,'' Rudy D`Angelo watches his best friend, golden boy Jeff Fontaine, literally self-combust. Although his characters are victims of circumstance, Sternberg also points out that the circumstances are often of their own making. In ``Teena,'' a 14- year-old girl has learned all about birth control but won't ask her 28-year-old boyfriend to use condoms; in the title story, although Brunet's Camaro is the 56th stolen since January (in a town with a population of 60,000), he will not consider buying another kind of car. While Sternberg makes no attempt to justify his protagonists' behavior, he does not make it seem ridiculous, and the reader leaves with a better understanding of a sadder world. Simple and affecting. Sternberg proves that ordinary people can have extraordinary characters. (First serial to the New Yorker)

Pub Date: July 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-15-115373-6
Page count: 192pp
Publisher: Harcourt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 1994