FOR KEEPSIES by Gary Fincke


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 Hapless young men from Pittsburgh and environs confront life's grim realities in ten stories by Fincke (The Double Negatives of Living, 1992, etc.--not reviewed), many of which first appeared in quarterlies. Seven are set in the late 60's and early 70's in Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio, where characters' primary concern is to avoid the draft; the other three, set in current times, look backward with a bleak brand of nostalgia. In the opening story, ``The Nazi on the Phone,'' a Kent State graduate student, trying to hang on to his deferment in the autumn after the National Guard shootings, reluctantly goes hunting for a town-based group of Nazis with his somewhat paranoid friend Dick. In the title story, a 19-year-old bakery worker discusses politics and air pollution with the bigoted, drunken, or half-informed people around him, all of whom seem headed for disaster--a condition symbolized by the town's two bridges, one rotted away, the other leading nowhere. In the ambitious ``Tinderbox,'' the loudmouthed Blevins, housemate of the protagonist in an Oxford, Ohio, fleabag, unwisely chooses the afternoon before the assassination of Martin Luther King to jeer and bait the neighborhood's black mailman; only by the unlikely intervention of their histrionic, gun-toting landlord are the two tenants later saved from immolation by a crowd of black people. These are not pleasant stories, mostly because the main characters tend to remain neutral in the face of crudely depicted evil. The nostalgic pieces--including ``The Man Who Played for the Skyliners,'' ``My Father Told Me,'' and ``Story Stories''--are subtler: in the last, and perhaps most accomplished here, a fortysomething father's moral indifference when implicated in an old high-school classmate's nervous breakdown--having something to do with his stint in Vietnam--finally shades off into empathy and kindness. For the most part, though, Fincke's stories are somewhat gritty and unpolished--a kind of lesser Bobbie Ann Mason for men.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1993
ISBN: 1-56689-013-6
Page count: 185pp
Publisher: Coffee House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 1993


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