SKIN by C.E. Poverman


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 Poverman's fifth book (My Father in Dreams, 1989, etc.) and second collection of stories (The Black Velvet Girl, an Iowa Award- winner in 1976) is a dazzler: Wide-ranging--from sexual abuse to psychosis, Vietnam nightmares, and the inner lives of drag queens- -Poverman consistently holds anguished lives up to the light and unsentimentally offers the possibility of redemption. The title story, close to novella length, takes a familiar subject that's been done almost to death--a young woman becomes involved with, and then frightened by, a self-described Vietnam vet who is violently self-destructive--and makes the familiar not only fresh but scary. The vet turns out not to be a vet at all, and the narrator's addiction to him (``he was like a drug and I couldn't get enough'') turns clichÇ on its face and manages to tell a dark Conradian story about a woman who comes to see a side of herself she would prefer not to know. Likewise, ``The Man Who Died'' begins as a psychological mystery about a professor accused of sexual abuse, then deepens as the professor begins to doubt his own version of events. A pre-sentence hearing turns into a personal psychoanalysis in which a man who's always thought of himself as a ``healer'' must confront impulses and dark visions. In ``Beautiful,'' Poverman turns what appears at first to be a glitzy story about a glamour girl into a haunting exploration of identity when the girl helps out a friend by demonstrating cosmetics and discovers how vulnerable women are, how willing to be changed. At its best, and that's often, a powerful group of stories: one of the finest collections since Christopher Tilghman's In a Father's Place.

Pub Date: Nov. 16th, 1992
ISBN: 0-86538-076-7
Page count: 280pp
Publisher: Ontario Review
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 1992