TRACER by Frederick Barthelme


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The second reprint in Barthelme’s multibook deal with Counterpoint (see above), this novella from 1985 introduces more of the writer’s whacked-out middle-aged couples, divorced and sleeping with the wrong people (i.e., marital relatives). The new divorce in this series of vignettes manages to find solace in his ex-wife’s sister’s arms at her Florida motel, a place peopled with all sorts of “screwball-comedy buffoons,” thought Kirkus. We also discerned the emotions under the typical Barthelme “surface disposability,” part of what brought the novelist out of his previously “mannered” style. In the past, we were put off by the author’s “wise-guy,” “too hip for its own good” dialogue, but here it nicely contrasts with “those times when true if ineloquent feeling breaks through an otherwise numb mosaic of beach days, eccentricity, and boredom.” At the time, Kirkus considered it the novelist’s “best work yet.” A tropical breeze of a book that we pronounced, simply, “artful.”

Pub Date: April 1st, 2001
ISBN: 1-58243-129-9
Page count: 192pp
Publisher: Counterpoint
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 2001


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