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Rather, paper-thin products: but these tissue-weight tales from poet-turned-thriller-writer Hall (Under Cover of Daylight, 1987); Tropical Freeze, 1989) are not without their airy charms. One new story, ""Arabella,"" sits among eight others reprinted from literary quarterlies, and it's the clunker of the pack: a maudlin tale of an old blind woman who imagines her husband's loving voice speaking to her from a ""battery-powered talking clock."" More representative of the collection's overall wry appeal is ""Miami Beach, Kentucky,"" in which an eccentric town-father wages a campaign to change the name of Sinking Fork, KY, to that of the Florida city--and succeeds so well that the air begins ""swarming with new smells. . .They weren't Kentucky smells. Fishy, fruity, salty smells."" That note of light wonder reprises in other stories--in ""An American Beauty,"" about a man who finds a rose growing atop his bald skull, and in ""The Miracles,"" a fantasy about a football coach who teaches his team's boosters some cheers that send listeners into a defenseless trance. Tougher sentiments inform ""Survival Week,"" a sage coming-of-age tale, and the title story, in which bumptious humor fades into sardonicism as Hall deftly chronicles the misadventures of an itinerant plumber. The three remaining tales all deal self-consciously with the arts: ""Poetic Devices"" and ""The Electric Poet,"" each a mocking story about the politics of literary success; and, far more resonant, ""Gas,"" in which a successful conceptual clothes designer returns to her rural family and roots. Slight, nearly translucent tales that expose Hall's poetical nerves--but not his newfound muscle as one of the finest Florida thriller writers.

Pub Date: April 9th, 1990
Publisher: Norton