ANIMAL ACTS by Cris Mazza


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A mostly snazzy, sharp-edged debut collection of 11 stories about intimate or voyeuristic relationships in the contemporary world. The strongest pieces here juxtapose a situation or setting to an ongoing, problematic (and often lascivious) relationship; often pets or other animals (including butchered ones) serve as recurring motifs, sometimes effectively, sometimes not. The slick ""At the Meat Counter"" skillfully plays a narrator's visits to a butcher (where double-entrendres are the norm) against her depressing affair with her boss; likewise, in ""Dead Dog,"" a P.E. instructor conducts sex-education classes and mourns her family dog. In the cutesy ""Nervous Dog,"" a metafiction of provisional detail, a dog comes between two people. In ""Piano Lessons,"" a sculptress transforms a woman's husband into a clay sculpture, which she then exhibits--the surrealistic conceit, complicated by voyeurism (a typical strategy here), becomes a complex metaphor for adultery. In the title story, written in script form, a woman at a party comes on to a man by telling him a long, seductive tale about another woman, and finally, seduced, he takes her silently: ""The passion on stage is in pantomime."" As for the rest, ""Erasable Ink"" is a poetic (but obvious) meditation, again voyeuristic, on lasciviousness; ""Animals Don't Think about It"" a flimsy vehicle with too much expository dialogue; ""Making Things Happen,"" about stage-manager Maria (""Past tense is the worst""), too woodenly metafictional. ""The Dove Hunters,"" however, about a woman obsessed with her man's ex-lover, is a satisfying summary of the book: ""The method they use now is to keep moving"" First published in Indiana Review, Kansas Quarterly, Pulpsmith and several other quarterlies.

Pub Date: Sept. 15th, 1989
Publisher: Fiction Collective