THE SHOPLIFTER'S APPRENTICE: Stories by Ellen Lesser

THE SHOPLIFTER'S APPRENTICE: Stories

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Like her first novel--last year's The Other Woman--these 11 workmanlike stories, most of which have appeared in small magazines, offer few surprises and not much insight into their sell-absorbed female protagonists. Mostly unsympathetic, Lesser's young women can be downright obnoxious. A lonely proofreader in Manhattan reluctantly befriends an older, retarded woman, then abandons her with little remorse ("Sara's Friend"). In the title story, a similar attraction/repulsion leads a young waitress to take up with a male shoplifter whose lessons in thievery offer her "a terrible freedom." The small-town journalist in "Stinking Benjamin" enjoys the company of an independent 50-year-old who was once a stereotypical housewife and is now a divorced free spirit. Though she feels guilty about ignoring her older friend for her new lover, this selfish narrator is also fully aware of her mean inaction. Likewise, a somewhat neurotic professional woman--an ambitious journalist from Miami--visits her college roommate in Vermont, but feels excluded from her married friend's New Age idyll, complete with its adorable child ("Eating Air"). Being single also depresses a Manhattanite (in "For Solo Piano") whose longing and loneliness is intensified by the loud and constant lovemaking of her neighbors. Three mundane pieces suggest that breaking up is hard to do: an abandoned wife speaks her woe into the miniature tape-recorder given to her as an anniversary gift by her ex ("Pearlcorder"); a young Jewish woman recovers from her failed relation with a goy at her little old grandmother's apartment in Brooklyn ("Passover Wine"); and in the only story with a male protagonist ("Dream Life"), a hapless lover is held responsible for what he does in his girlfriend's dreams. "Pressure for Pressure," an almost documentary account of an abortion, follows a young simple woman through her last-minute indecision and her regret for the casualness of the affair from which the pregnancy resulted. More meditative than meaningful, "Life Drawing" records the thoughts of a nude model as she poses, and "Madame Bartova's School of Ballet" recalls a young girl's years of study with a demanding teacher. Middle-brow feminist fiction--bland and predictable.

ISBN: 671-64882-9
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
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