DELIRIUM ECLIPSE And Other Stories by James Lasdun
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Lasdun, a British writer not yet 30, provides a very visual, sourly moral wash upon anecdotes of class in his stories, nine of which are offered here. Densely detailed, all the stories have a discernible angle of approach. In ""The Seige,"" a young maid finds herself in a perverse cycle of indebtedness, fear, and aggression; in ""Property,"" a grandson is a part of his grandmother's slavery to a lifetime's possessions (a kind of Spoils of Poynton in reverse); in ""Escapes,"" a black professor contemplating adultery in Paris becomes terrifyingly lost in the Metro at night, all his cleverness and expectations good for nothing, certainly not plain survival. While these stories make their points suavely enough (the emperor--in Lasdun, this is self-satisfaction--has no clothes), they still seem a tad too gleefully eager to score them. More stinging--because able to swerve more unexpectedly--are the title story, as well as ""Dead Labor"" and ""England's First."" All three at first seem conventional. . .until they make that swerve. In ""Delirium Eclipse,"" a young English businessman, on a trip to India with a recent girlfriend, is struck temporarily blind by the sun and by jealousy; but unlike most India stories by Westerners, this one plays more off warped psychology than mere cultural relativism. ""Dead Labor"" has a young Marxist writer being seduced first by a woman journalist's food-column and then by her body; just as the sexual moral seems to approach, though, Lasdun suddenly makes it into a story about panic rather than bad faith. In ""England First,"" an unjustly accused adopted boy takes revenge on his foster parents by completely withdrawing, a technique that leaves not only the characters but the reader as well feeling utterly emptied and hopeless. It's as effective as a small novel. Lasdun will ripen, little doubt of that--but his jaundiced eye, his rich style and his psychological fearlessness are already qualities to reckon with and savor.

Pub Date: July 2nd, 1986
Publisher: Harper & Row