MOON DELUXE: Stones by Frederick Barthelme


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A pinch of Mary Robison, a tablespoon of Barry Hannah, many cupsful of Ann Beattie: blend till thick (but curiously without flavor) and you've made a Frederick Barthelme story. To describe one of the tales here is almost to describe them all: a youngish, very passive man living in the deep South, in a California-type singles-apartment-complex, lets himself be pushed around by a witless young woman whom he hardly knows. The stories usually involve at least one ride in an Audi, BMW, Peugeot, Jetta, or Seville. There is almost always the inevitable sidebar scene with a landlord or landlady--or the scene in the kitchen. (""Sally comes out of the kitchen carrying a tiny glass of milk and a plate of crackers, cheese cubes, and apple slices. 'I hate broccoli, but my friend Ann makes me eat it because she says it kills cancer. I just love Ann.'"") And there's also, characteristically, a brand-name scene involving a department store or restaurant or supermarket: ""You turn and watch her shoulders; you do want something suddenly, so you go back to the medical supplies and select Curad bandages, because the package is green. On the way to the check out, you pick up a red toolbox. You buy these things."" In ""Pool Lights,"" one does get a sense of the pervasive non-privacy of courtyard living in these complexes; in ""Lumber,"" the anarchic contingencies of the casual pick-up are nicely spread out; and now and again (""Monster Deal,"" ""Rain Check"") there is an engagingly daffy girl to smile at. Otherwise, however, Barthelme's stories--and their vapid narrators--are as interchangeable and affectless as plastic stacking chairs: examples of the new Yorker story at its most trendy, precious, and Warhol-flat.

Pub Date: Aug. 4th, 1983
Publisher: Simon & Schuster