PRIMARY COLORS by Barbara Croft


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A debut volume of 14 stories that contains a handful of superb midwestern fables, another group of moving fictional reminiscences, and several wannabes. Croft has a soft, delicate touch, and this collection should mark her as a writer to watch. Of the fables, "The Mosasaur" concerns the changes wrought in the life of Carlisle J. Campbell when he digs up the bones of a "reposing serpent" on his farm. He becomes obsessed with the bones, moves to Iowa, and glues them to a barn to remind passing motorists "how easily monsters can enter into our lives." "Blue Horses" works like a childhood fairy tale for adults: a careful parable about art objects ends with resonating questions--"Why should there be blue horses? Why should there be a man to ask about it?" Among the reminiscences, "The Ragpicker's Boy" allows a young narrator, whose family is mired in poverty, to admire the ragpicker's family and their horses from a distance--only to discover close up how sordid and hardscrabble they really are. In "A Little Piece of Star," pieces of a meteor puncture the roof of a grandfather's 1934 Packard, changing his life forever. "Turning Blue" has to do with a narrator's grandmother who is losing her powers; "Beautiful Belle" with a two-faced calf that survives, causing a pitched battle between the narrator's parents over household authority and theology; and "Someday House" is a haunting tale about a father (an independent contractor) whose attempts to build a dream-house for his family nearly cause the family to disintegrate. A sure-handed group of stories, mainly, often filled with a sense of wonder and with luminous rumors from a world long lost.

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