Email this review


Kauffman (Places In The World a Woman Could Walk, Collaborators, etc.) continues to write elliptical, short works of prose that tease with their hard imagism, but that remain insufficiently illuminating--obscurantist at worst. Fifteen stories here, most of them set in rural Michigan, focus mainly on women who endure amidst the midwestern harshness--a landscape that provides plenty of correlatives for their intense emotional states. Some of these women are resolute and brave, determined to solve their own problems, as Rochelle, in ""News,"" puts it. The narrator of ""How Sunlight Figures In"" plans to marry her good man, a hippish nature boy, despite the warnings of her aunt, herself an independent-minded local politico. In two linked stories, one of which gives the collection its title, an auto-parts factory-worker named Marimba, who grinds her teeth in her sleep, wants to discover a distinctly female way for releasing anger against the world. Kauffman's feminist pantheism takes a decidedly surreal turn in ""Marguerite Landmine,"" the fantastical account of another decisive woman who transforms matter, creating the perfect male. The good men, like the women, are those who live in harmony with nature (""In the Discorruption of Flesh""), which, we learn in ""Where I'd Quit,"" can be the ultimate lover. A good man also wears a work-shirt (""The Shirt"") and understands an uncompromising woman, which the male narrator of ""The Sky Is Still Overhead"" can't do. If nature can provide solace, so too do the machines that work it--in ""Machinery,"" the best story in this weak collection, a farm woman finds farm equipment downright therapeutic, and recommends the mastery of a single machine for her wayward son. Kauffinan's poetic prose can invoke the bond of woman to nature in a stunning image (""Women Over The Bay""), or it can be mere double-talk (""If You're So Dead""). Other enigmatic pieces, such as ""Anton's Album,"" are just annoyingly incomplete. An apt metaphor here, a quirky insight there, but not much more.

Pub Date: Sept. 7th, 1989
Publisher: Knopf