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by Brady Udall

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-393-04033-X
Publisher: Norton

 Eleven polished stories, a few of which have appeared in GQ and Playboy, that insist on their rawness and grit but seem to involve lots of writing-school posturing about cowboy life out in Utah, Texas, and Arizona. Udall's carpenter chic self-consciously draws him to men ``stricken with heartache and fracture and fallen hopes'': men, in other words, who drink too much, live too hard, and suffer ``the confusion that comes with being lost in the world''--though for no- account losers and ``irretrievable failures,'' they sure do speak eloquently. In ``Midnight Raid,'' a divorced and drunk dad sneaks up on his ex-wife's new house to deliver a pet goat for his son, against the mother's wishes. Another regular guy, a handyman who drives a ``cowboy truck'' and is irresistible to women, finds himself infatuated with a pretty girl suffering from a nervous disorder (``Junk Court''). ``Ballad of Ball and Chain'' makes its cynical comment about marriage pretty explicitly: A bachelor-party prank leads to the groom's accidental death and leaves his guilt- ridden best man with only one way to punish himself--by getting married. A teenage boy's perspective lends some innocence to other tough-guy tales: In ``Buckeye the Elder,'' the narrator's sister takes up with a man who charms the whole family, an illiterate reformed alcoholic who's converted to Mormonism; and in ``He Becomes Deeply and Famously Drunk,'' a juvenile delinquent whose father died when he was five returns to the ranch his father worked and discovers responsibility in work as a cowboy. In the most affirmative story, ``The Opposite of Loneliness,'' a middle-aged divorced man discovers real familial joy as the supervisor of a group home for the ``developmentally challenged.'' The macho blather wears thin, and the mystery men aren't as intriguing as their creator might think, but beneath the affected surfaces it's clear that Udall has talent. He remains a writer worth watching. (Author tour)