THE ANT GENERATOR by Elizabeth Harris


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 Strange and fascinating tales from Texas, and winner of the 1991 John Simmons Short Fiction Award, by a writer whose work has appeared in the Antioch Review, Kansas Quarterly, and Southwest Review, as well in the anthology New Stories from the South. In ``The Ant Generator,'' a woman dreams she can create electricity by harnessing the energy of ants; in ``Hybrid Wolfdogs,'' an aging real-estate investor commits himself to caring for a pair of mongrel wolves; in ``The Green Balcony,'' a woman remains on her apartment terrace for days, hoping that a vision will tell her how to live her life. Harris's characters are an eccentric crew, outcasts from mainstream America caught up in a quasi-comic struggle to create some sense--or at least structure-- in their lives. Her stories are the kind one might hear, if one were lucky, in a half-empty Texas barroom on a summer afternoon. The author's unerring feel for Texan cadence and dialogue (``His old lady was sitting up there in the front seat like she's gonna make him jack her up with the car. She's something else, wears them big dresses you could crawl under there with her. I wouldn't mind. She's got a mouth on her, too'') communicates a wry understanding of the men (and, occasionally, women) who drift through the state on their way, they hope, to somewhere better. If some tales remain frustratingly enigmatic (including ``Like Family,'' in which an heiress resolves a marital crisis by giving all her money to a friend, and ``The World Record Holder,'' in which a 46-year-old teacher devotes herself to surpassing the world record for standing on one foot), the sense of wonder and comedy they afford is worth the read. Sly, original, and never dull.

Pub Date: Nov. 30th, 1991
ISBN: 0-87745-342-X
Page count: 170pp
Publisher: Univ. of Iowa
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 1991


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