REST AREA by Clay McLeod Chapman


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Debut sheaf of short stories by a 24-year-old playwright and monologist who has an off-Broadway play opening in March.

The stories are monologues much like those developed by Chekhov in “Heartbreak,” where a lonely cabbie has only his steaming nag to talk to back in the barn and discuss the day’s tragedies. In “Rest Area,” a man waits near a highway stop’s restroom for his young daughter, who went into it weeks ago and never came out. Nor does the man move his car, since the child has the keys, but he talks to passersby and hands out smudged, unrecognizable photocopies of the girl. In “Fox Trot,” an 80-year-old woman grabs a rabid fox by the neck when it sneaks, drooling, into her house. She holds on tight and talks to it for 12 hours until help comes. The tone in both pieces seems intended to pull on the heartstrings—but such a sentimental note can’t be struck repeatedly with great success. The comic “The Pool Witch,” apparently a fantasy, is about three young boys and a sexy 16-year-old pool witch they want to push down a long twisting nozzle at Water World. “The Wheels on the Bus Go” tells of a schoolgirl who lost her hearing while an infant but can remember certain sounds; she knows what she’s not hearing on the school bus when a kid fondles her and everyone but her hears her shouting in orgasm. Perhaps the most brilliantly conceived story is “Chatterbox,” in which a ventriloquist’s dummy complains to Howard, his ventriloquist, about woodworms in his teeth, the speech impediment he’s been given, and his jealousy of Howard’s wife: “I’m swallowing you up to your elbow, Howard.”

Chapman’s pieces often read strongly and will charm many, but clearly the treat would be to hear the author do his monologues and give each character his, her, or its shading and vocal edges. If this comes out as an audiobook, grab it.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-7868-6737-X
Page count: 192pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 2001