THE MATTER IS LIFE by J. California Cooper

THE MATTER IS LIFE

Stories
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

 Cooper's fourth collection (Some Soul to Keep, 1987, etc.): gritty, modern-day folk tales told in a richly lyrical colloquial style, mostly by and about women who are abused or devastated by men and by their environment but who sometimes prevail. In ``Vanity,'' a fable, a beautiful girl falls in love with a junkie who eventually gets her hooked on drugs, at which point ``the Guardian Angel gave up.'' The story graphically chronicles the girl's harrowing descent until, used up, she dies five years later. Cooper is big on homemade truths that manage to ring true without condescension to her characters or much sentimentality. In ``I Told Him!,'' the narrator, against her will, marries Wallace: ``I had gonorrhea eight times, siftless three times. I PRAYED he didn't bring nothin' home they couldn't cure.'' Finally, she finds the courage to divorce him and then remarries happily, while his descent continues. ``Friends, Anyone?'' is a Ring Lardnerish tale in which the narrator--who has lost her family and friends--damns herself as she tries to justify herself. ``The Big Day'' is told from the point of view of an old woman who cheerfully attends a friend's funeral and enjoys the company: ``Just think, if I'd a married him, I'd a had somebody to keep these old bones warm all these years my bed been empty.'' The old woman is one of Cooper's strong heroines, most notably portrayed in ``The Doras,'' in which a family of Doras (Dora, Lovedora, Windora, Endora, Splendora) survive betrayal, heartbreak, poverty, and dreariness to begin, with Adora, a whole new generation of Doras. Quirky tales in the tradition of Langston Hughes. Though Cooper occasionally leans too heavily on exclamation marks to indicate exuberance, mainly she brings home simple truths in tones that vary from wildly humorous to poignant.

Pub Date: July 1st, 1991
ISBN: 0-385-41173-1
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Doubleday
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 1991




MORE BY J. CALIFORNIA COOPER

FictionLIFE IS SHORT BUT WIDE by J. California Cooper
by J. California Cooper
FictionWILD STARS SEEKING MIDNIGHT SUNS by J. California Cooper
by J. California Cooper
FictionSOME PEOPLE, SOME OTHER PLACE by J. California Cooper
by J. California Cooper
FictionTHE FUTURE HAS A PAST by J. California Cooper
by J. California Cooper