NOT A FREE SHOW by Helen Schulman


Email this review


The 16 short stories that make up this slender debut are mostly muddled and unconvincing, even though, or maybe because, they try so terribly hard to be tough and knowing. Full of cool talk, lumpenprole posturing, and kitsch chic, Schulman's fictions look back to such distant literary influences as Lorrie Moore, Tama Janowitz, and Bret Easton Ellis. The most offensive pieces here affect the voices of back-country poor whites, Co-op City black girls, junkies, and a paraplegic. In ""We Were of Two Minds,"" two daughters of a bigamist meet at his funeral in an upstate New York trailer park; and ""Good Practice"" picks up the story in the next generation, when one of the bigamist's granddaughters begins killing farm animals because her female cousin, whom she adores, has taken up with a local boy--all told in the naive voice of the troubled girl. The narrator of ""Pushing the Point""--a 16-year-old from the Bronx--describes her friend Rhonda (""I'm bad. She's badder"") turning a trick in the alleyway. ""I Am Miss America"" is the narrative of a crippled rich kid who crashed a Maserati while driving drunk and is presently very sexually frustrated. In ""Having Fun,"" Schulman does her Ellis turn, describing a bunch of college grads lounging about a pool on the West Coast, catching rays, and shooting heroin. More wealthly junkies creep around in ""Siblings,"" set in a country-clubbish rehab clinic in Florida. More drugs are consumed in ""Like Brothers,"" a tale of post-Animal House anemic at a reunion of Cornell frat boys. The narrator of ""Inventions"" talks hip too (""jones,"" ""blow,"" ""boff,"" ""chick"". . .) while describing her summer with her lover, Mojo, an ice-cream-vending mogul and ""a Post-Marxist, with a yen for a Porsche."" Young women complain here a lot: the New York neurologist who whines about her ""old man,"" her hippie-poet lover (""East Jesus""); the spoiled daughter who tells of an overbearing, politically-correct Jewish mother (the title story); and the young widow of""James Dean's Widow"" who joins her deliriously happy parents on a trip to Hawaii. One of Schulman's narrators says it best: ""Here is more of the same.

Pub Date: May 4th, 1988
Publisher: Knopf