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Another in this year's four short-fiction titles from Illinois--this one consisting mainly of slices of unfulfilled, impoverished lives held to the light: short bittersweet takes that occasionally hit but just as often fall flat. In the moving title story, a backhoe operator, ""one of those people who live from obsession to obsession,"" leaves his wife for a woman with ""long legs as smooth and well balanced as the barrel of a gun"" and lives with her for ten years, unmarried, as she goes to fat. The piece suggestively juxtaposes their tired relationship with his backhoe search for bones in a field. ""Out There,"" darkly rendered, is a study of a 32-year-old woman who lives outside the city with her grandmother and has a problem establishing a relationship with a man. The very short ""Squabs"" is also effective: a young boy witnesses how a barn his family rents, one infested with pigeons, increases family tension (engendered by poverty) until his father blasts away the pigeons in a climactic bloodbath. ""County of Rage, County of Young Green Growing Things"" dramatizes an eerie, useless penance offered to a dead boy's family by a woman who ran over the boy. But other stories are less successful: the too-obvious ""Yard Sale,"" written from the points of view of several people, is held together with common reference to a neighborhood yard sale; ""Smoketown Road,"" about a man who attends AA meetings to satisfy his yen for gossip, and a woman with a pet cow and a baby who's not right, is sketchy; and others tend to be too muted, too much the mere slice-of-life. The best her are memorable; the rest are too unwilling to take real chances.

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