FALLING FREE by Barry Targan


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Targan's third story collection (Surviving Adverse Seasons; Harry Belten and the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto) consists of four sharp-edged portraits, along with two others that are too finicky and too intellectualized. Among the best here is the title story--about a man at loose ends (""if death was always waiting for us all. . .then death, wherever it was, was someplace else"") caught holding a bullfight in Texas. In his gypsy fashion, he takes his semi and his wife and heads lot California, but on the road he meets a man with a gun and a backpack full of cocaine and eventually kills him. ""Caveat Emptor"" concerns a young entrepreneur in Atlantic City, which has been converted to a military camp during WW II. The boy sells legally obtained sundries (Cokes, cigarettes) before moving on to more-questionable dealings under the direction of a low-rent mentor and casting an ever-wider net of corruption until he loses himself. In ""Dominion,"" a man ruined by his partner survives and gets involved with a fundamentalist--at first to dissuade his son from conversion, then for more enigmatic reasons. ""Old Light"" frames a grandmother's flashback to the Atlantic City of WW II again, where as a young artist she had an affair with a boat-builder committed to ""going on""; he's taken away by the war, but his memory remains a shining beacon. Meanwhile, ""Triage""--a dissertation on a young journeyman writer who goes skiing--is too neatly structured and concluded; and ""The Editor of A"" is a brittle, dry-boned meditation about a bloodless dictionary editor who must face his limitations. Targan has a habit of overwriting, working too much on stately syntax and not enough on character or emotional development, but the best of these fictions give good aesthetic and emotional weight.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1989
Publisher: Univ. of Illinois Press