HISTORY ON A PERSONAL NOTE by Binnie Kirshenbaum


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 A second collection from Kirschenbaum (after Married Life, 1990): l6 stories, some of which have previously appeared in magazines like Outerbridge and the Indiana Review, that self- consciously chronicle female city-sophisticates' quests for identity and meaning. With one exception, the pieces here, though often bearing significant titles--``History on a Personal Note,'' ``The Zen of Driving,'' ``Get Married, Get Divorced, Find Jesus''--and equally weighty intentions, are shallow reflections of PC orthodoxy. The title story, as it moves from 1984 Germany--East and West--to rural Virginia, chronicles the failed romance of Lorraine, an American, with Peter, a German travel operative, and offers glib opinions on US politics and European history. Lorraine reappears when, back home in Virginia, she marries Doc, a stereotypical redneck whose crudeness serves (in ``Halfway to Farmville'' and ``Rural Delivery'') to illustrate the finer sensibilities of the urban narrator and the horrors of poor Lorraine's sojourn in the benighted South. ``Get Married, Get Divorced, Find Jesus'' describes the quirky relationship between Harold, who seems to know everything, and Nadia, who ``prefers to think things are as they are not''; and ``The Zen of Driving'' tells of a woman, unfaithful to her husband, who fantasizes about different cars while learning to drive in the city. ``White Houses'' reflects on a suburban childhood during the Kennedy years as a way of making a commentary on racial and religious prejudice. The best story here, meanwhile, is ``Courtship,'' which movingly describes the narrator's parents' ``wondrous love'' for each other while ruefully acknowledging ``that for me, such a love would never be enough.'' The kind of narrowly focused writing that declares sophistication but, in its way, is as parochial as any.

Pub Date: April 12th, 1995
ISBN: 0-88064-169-X
Page count: 192pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 1995


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