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YOUTH'S MAGIC HORN: Seven Stories by Jan Wahl



Pub Date: June 30th, 1978
Publisher: Nelson

Wahl's seven short stories, set in the same sultry Ohio small town in a period that establishes itself as yesteryear, are an odd mixture of nostalgia with grotesque effects. All but one are views of women, projected with a sort of romantic perversity borrowed from the South. In one story a keyed-up young nun on holiday toys with her more prosaic former boyfriend, and in the longest, and thinnest, another self-infatuated young girl dismisses her boyfriend to the mundane world she's left behind her. Though Wahl is an effective illusionist, most of the stories seem too slight for the bizarre shocks with which he burdens them: the all-out attack upon the town by solitary Blanche McKee's numberless, well-disciplined dogs; the persistent images of threatening bulls that haunt dying, gospel-singing maiden Aunt Leah; the inexplicable serf-destruction of an uncle/guardian happily en route to his first father-son banquet. In perhaps the most consistently strange episode, a small boy plots to scalp his mother; then, finding her in bed with her petted curls hanging on a knob, he concludes, stunned, that ""uncanny powers somehow had gotten there ahead of him."" But all are mannered pieces, echoing stronger adult material in a well-established genre.