WHAT THEY TELL YOU TO FORGET by Fred Pfeil

WHAT THEY TELL YOU TO FORGET

KIRKUS REVIEW

 Characters seldom transcend their class, race, or gender in a pretentious collection of six stories and a novella, winner of Pushcart's 14th annual Editors' Book Award, by Trinity College (Conn.) English professor Pfeil. Politics is mostly gesture in these jargony tales of disappointment and unrealized desire. Lost innocence seems to be the point of ``A Buffalo, New York Story,'' the narrator's lament over the Cold War values he wholeheartedly embraced in his middle- class youth: Quotations from Life magazine provide the historical context to this tale of left-liberal guilt. Race is at the center of the pointless ``Gator,'' a reminiscence of the narrator's short friendship with a black man during his own hippie years; his present-day success as a Stanford MBA of course explains his implicit racism. Male sexual (hetero) guilt underpins ``Dirty Pieces,'' a typically puritanical bit of leftish angst over masturbation, horniness, and lustful thoughts about women. The link between politics and sex is further explored in ``The Angel of Dad,'' the story of Max the Rad, an aging (and unintentional) caricature of a New Leftover who decides to change his life when his father's ghost visits him. The joyful innocence of teens who spontaneously rediscover do-wop singing is undercut by their commercial exploitation--a TV ad that becomes their 15 minutes. The Ann Beattieish novella, ``Almost Like Falling,'' captures the sad lives of some '60s types who realize, in the '80s, that their lives are going nowhere, Reagan being partly to blame for their working- class miseries. ``Freeway Bypass'' is the most explicit political piece here, with supporting quotations from Marx and Fredric Jameson: It's a collage of voices--anarchists who deface billboards; an old-timer disgusted by their vandalism; a billboard- space salesman; and a South American refugee who survives for days on a highway divider after being hit by a car. Humorless tales, in all, from a tenured radical.

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-916366-49-9
Page count: 277pp
Publisher: Pushcart
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 1995




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