MADONNA ON HER BACK by Alyson Carol Hagy


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Eight stories with the earne ted tropes and topics of the writing workshops, at once ""well-crafted"" and commonplace. From the file drawer of back-country passion stories comes ""No Kind of Na about a lonely farm woman who both wants and fears a man's love (""She had pegged him early on as a man who liked to lay his fences slowly, carefully""). In the sentimental ""Mister Makes,"" an unmarried welfare mother (her first baby died) has a second baby with no arms (he'll die, too) while a pointedly meager-passioned chorus of neighborhood gossips complains about her pettily. Characters in these ideas-before-essence stories seem often mouthpieces for topics and attitudes. In ""Infrared Signature,"" a trio of grown-to-adulthood hippies sets out to snag a military plane with a balloon-raised fish net (""Why not? Somebody's got to show these guys what they're doing""), but one is left in no doubt that their hearts are in the fight place (""A shirt. . .I'm making it from the hand-woven cotton material that Marilyn sent me from Guatemala""). In ""Stadia"" (a young man's consuming--and selfish--grief for his dead father, who was a ""great guy""), symbols are cunningly arranged, but characters' behavior remains linear and unconvincing. Tired symbols govern ""Shoreline"" (camping with him in the wild, a girl tries to seduce a half-gay young man: ""And it will be romantic, won't it? Just you and me and the loons?""); as they do, too, the ambitious but exercise-like ""Where Men Go to Cry,"" in which a drying woman artist (""I see things, things that you just barely feel"") is infatuated with an Apollonian, and rationally intelligent, young man. Effortful and oft-atrophied pieces from the archives of storydom, with publication credits from Sewanee Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, Crescent Review, and North American Review.

Pub Date: Dec. 20th, 1986
Publisher: Stuart Wright--dist. by Small Press (1814 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley, CA 94702)