WRITERS HARVEST 2 by Ethan Canin


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 It may seem misanthropic to criticize a collection in which all 18 stories were donated to benefit Share Our Strength, an anti- hunger group. But charity shouldn't be a cover for bad writing, and this hodgepodge has more than its share of sloppy work. The tales reflect a common intent, the exploration of domestic life in all its messiness, returning again and again to the effort to define the meaning of ``home.'' Melanie Rae Thon's ``The Snow Thief'' focuses on an unhappy, childless woman, keeping a deathwatch for her father and looking back over her life; Po Bronson's ``The Impossible to Kill Me Game'' explores a fatherless young boy's fear of abandonment surfacing as his mother takes up with a new man. In Gary Krist's facile ``Sleep,'' an anxious broker in international finance chooses family over the incessant late- night calls from London. And in Louis B. Jones's clever ``Stone,'' a married man's focus on passing a kidney stone allows him to ignore everything else in his life crumbling around him. Judith Freeman revisits the muted world of her Mormon parents in ``Ofelia Rodriguez,'' the story of their unexpected daughter-in-law and grandchild. There are singularly amateurish stories by the poet Alice Fulton and newcomer Heidi Julavits: The first is a clumsy tale of Irish-Catholic spinster aunts, the second a confusing attempt at a cinematic-style chronicle about a distracted, impotent anthropologist, his suicidal wife, and the crew that chooses to film her death rather than save her. Robert Phillips's ``News About People You Know,'' tracing the inadvertent consequences of a social column in a small-town newspaper, stands out for its simple narrative virtues. Despite the claim that this is a collection of previously unpublished stories, at least two pieces (Frederick Barthelme's ``Dallas'' and Louis B. Jones's ``The Stone'') have appeared, in different versions, in print before. The consolation for this decidedly mixed collection: Your money goes to a good cause.

Pub Date: Nov. 14th, 1996
ISBN: 0-15-600246-9
Page count: 336pp
Publisher: Harvest/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1996


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