THE HIGH SPIRITS by David Huddle


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A disappointing batch of 11 stories from Huddle (Only the Little Bone, A Dream with no Stump Roots in It), often about sexual initiations or adolescents coming-of-age, that tends to stretch too thin or gel precious, though it does have its redeeming moments. The shortest are the most noteworthy: ""Apache,"" vigorous, tells of a stripper who's hustled by a phony ""Harvard researcher"" until she turns the hustle around: ""Underwater Spring,"" suggestive, is about a boy, abandoned by his mother, who lives with his crimpy aunts and tests himself by swimming underwater; the evocative ""Sketching Hannah"" describes a lawyer who comes to know a woman who's asked for his help in tracking down a potter she was apprenticed to; and a sardonic father in ""The Mean Mud Season"" narrates his daughter's coming-of-age. The lengthier stories, however, tend to flatten out: ""Playing,"" in which a high-school sax player (in a radio band) and his girl have sex before the sax player and another young man flip a coin (the sax player loses) to decide who will marry her (she thinks, mistakenly, that she's pregnant); and the title story, in which another horn player narrates, this time about the charismatic Richard, who doesn't ""have a philosophy anymore,"" and Louise, who likes to have sex with intelligent men until--faced with the loss of innocence and youth--she rams her car (Richard aboard) into a tree. ""Brothers,"" about fraternity high jinks, also loses its oomph before the finish; and ""The Beautiful Gestures,"" about the midlife crisis of a professor in Vermont, is not far enough removed from essay and a little mannered. Some short takes that satisfy, then, and some lengthier trots that need either to be sharpened around the edges or given their heads and developed into novellas.

Pub Date: Aug. 22nd, 1989
Publisher: Godine