THE CIRCLES I MOVE IN: Short Stories by Diane Lefer


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One humdrum tale follows another, lulling readers into a somnolent state induced by a writer who's been published in Redbook and Playgirl. The stories can be loosely grouped in two categories: those about minority characters, primarily blacks and Latinos; and those populated by tacky, stupid, white female secretaries. There is some overlap in the title story, which shows one of the secretaries dating a black man who works in the copy center of her building. Like many of its companions in this volume, the tale begins with a cute moment of humor (a jab at Betty Ford alums), then reveals its superficiality as Lefer lapses into overstatement, depicting through a tedious monologue the lame life of a not-so-bright office worker. Readers may hope that at least the Latino characters in stories like ""Huevos,"" ""La Chata,"" ""Vegetable Soup,"" and ""Little Virgins"" will have some soul, but even these portraits are pallid. ""Vegetable Soup"" combines a character study and commentary on political upheaval in an amateur blend whose ingredients refuse to unite amicably. Redbook's pick, ""Huevos,"" is one of the most interesting of the bunch: the saga of a timid Mexican girl who remains in her humble station while the world keeps turning. However, it relies upon straight reportage of action and thought, to the detriment of nuance. ""The Night Life"" and ""Man, Wife, and Deity"" introduce sex and pornography to the collection with their respective portraits of a night-clubbing crotch-grabber and a middle-aged pornographer married to a humanistic city worker. Even the slightly seamy becomes dull and rings false in these two tales. But the most serious problem, which pervades the collection without exception, is that of pacing. Lefer's habit of summarizing situations rather than elaborating on them reduces the action to a Cliff Note and forces characters into their lowest common denominators. Attention-deficit disorder plagues these shallow forgettables.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1994
Page count: 192pp
Publisher: Zoland