DANGER by Debbie Cymbalista


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In her debut story-collection, Cymbalista imitates the drop-dead hip, laundry-list fiction of Bret Easton Ellis and Tama Janowitz, portraying sexually corruptible teens and jaded New York yuppies through the expensive minutiae of their bland, mechanical lives. "Choice," about a 16-year-old gift who takes up with a mildly sadistic older man, is meant to convey shocking exploitation--the man is nothing but a pair of strong arms and an endlessly nagging voice--but this Lolita cares far too much about his 100% cotton sheets and his out-of-season raspberries to seem truly abused. Similarly, "Growth" tracks gathering storm clouds of sex abuse in the male-dominated eyes of a 12-year-old girl. "Manhattan Boxes" chronicles the sexual confusion of Manhattan yuppie Lydia through the rising and falling contents of her lovers' refrigerators. Will she choose investment-banker Peter, who always stocks the best champagne, Calamato olives, etc.--in short, the best trendy Manhattan fare? Or will she choose lovers who live on cold pizza? Lydia whirls in confusion while munching Sara Lee. "Manhattan Dark and Light--Or the Late-Night Ditty of Kevin and Emily" is the tale of more empty Manhattan lives. Likewise, other stories feature the expensive goodies of Manhattan as text and subtext--the characters in each are muddled about commitment, but resolute about the right food and drink. "Lies and Babies--At Twenty-nine" risks leaving Manhattan, tackling the drunken squalor of working-class lovers--with resoundingly phony results. "Alpine Sake" offers the reader a change of scene. A dismal, one-dimensional book. Cymbalista strives for naked candor, but her characters and plots are meandering nothings with nothing to say.

Publisher: Dutton
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