OUT FAR, IN DEEP by Alvin Handelman


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Handelman's first collection of seven stories, some previously published in The New England Review and Twin Cities, is a winner of the 1988 Minnesota Voices Competition (open to writers in five midwestern states). The pieces have rural or academic settings, eccentric of grotesque characters, and, at their best, an offbeat originality. ""Heartwood"" is a backwoods satire of 1960's personality Henry (yoga, pot, Peace Corps) confronted by Ora, a good old boy (and friend) who shoots a deer. Henry reports him to the game warden, but then has second thoughts and invents an alibi for him. In ""White Angels,"" a boy with pimples is accused of sodomizing farm animals, and the narrative alternates between the trial and the boy's pseudo-religious inner monologue; the style here lies somewhere between Flannery O'Connor and Faulkner. Likewise, ""Dear Abby"" is a convoluted tale from the point of view of a physically handicapped boy who is convinced that his father--an incestuous ""real demon""--has driven his wife and daughter to suicide and is carrying on with his granddaughter. ""The Fall"" is an absurd black-humorish account of a Jehovah's Witness in New England who unintentionally convinces a neighbor that Armageddon has arrived. ""Provide, Provide"" involves a comedy of errors concerning an English teacher who rents a house and agrees to care for Isaac, a cat; the cat, treated as an ""only child"" by the absent landlady, requires his full attention, and its demise leads to a sitcom finish; again, some black humor saves the story from cleverness. ""Obit Charlie,"" written in a pastiche of hard-boiled prose, concerns a reporter's discovery of the skeleton in a closet of a much-loved man who has died. An eccentric--if original--collection in which endings are sometimes a little too neatly sutured together.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1989
Publisher: New Rivers Press--dist. by Talman (150 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10011)