BLUE SPRUCE by David Long


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 These generic short stories have appeared in The New Yorker, GQ, and other magazines. Long (The Flood of '64, 1987) occasionally hits on an interesting idea, but he has a mild touch and never goes for the jugular, which results in a uniform softness. Marly Wilcox has an ``Attraction'' for Charlie Bitterman, and becomes entangled in a triangle with him and his racy high-school sweetheart, whose eye was gouged out by an older lover's daughter. There are some good observations about small towns and what it means to leave them or stay put, but the story peters out. In ``Perfection,'' a teenage girl plans to spend the night with her football-player boyfriend for the first time while her father is out of town, but her plans are complicated when she witnesses violence. Again, Long skirts the edges of meaning, retreating into a vague parallelism. Adult relationships are no more solid, and often end with banal twists, in the style of a slightly modernized O. Henry. In ``Talons,'' the narrator's aunt dies unexpectedly, and then he and his wife discover a cache of letters from an unknown man. When the narrator visits in order to inform the man of his aunt's death, he finds that the man is married and keeps a portrait of his aunt at home with the excuse that a customer left it at his frame shop and never picked it up. In ``Real Estate,'' Rosemary is renting a house from her boss, Gil, who also sleeps with her occasionally, although Rosemary tries to conceal their relationship from her teenage daughter. In the end, Gil's snotty girlfriend, a real estate agent, drops by to let Rosemary know that the house is on the market. There are plenty of recurring motifs here (surprise discoveries following death, hard-hearted daughters), but they add up to repetition rather than thematic depth. Fuzzy vignettes with few surprises.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-684-80033-0
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Scribner
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 1995


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