DIRT ANGEL by Jeanne Wilmot


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 Junkies, rapists, musicians from the projects, and other tenants of the urban underworld populate this uneven first collection by a former Manhattan attorney, whose short fiction has appeared in The North American Review, Antioch Review, etc. Wilmot opens on a decidedly depressing note with her title story--in which a former cheerleader, now an East Harlem junkie, gives birth to a still-born child and hangs herself--and it only goes downhill from there. In ``Madonna,'' an Italian-American cop turns hysterical when confronted with the days-old corpse of a black woman who's committed suicide. ``Red Gables'' tells of a young woman's dreary life with a bedridden mother and a father who eventually drowns beneath the surface a frozen pond. In ``Survivors,'' a would-be debutante tosses down pills as she meditates on the state-ordered execution of a former classmate turned murderer. In each of these stories, a dark, moody, jazzy atmosphere prevails, while the reader is sometimes pressed to discern what exactly is happening to the characters. The longer pieces, in which a plot is allowed to develop, are more engrossing- -particularly ``Spade in the Minstrel Mask,'' about a black musician's wife who struggles to save the life of his junkie sister. Too often, though, Wilmot's voice comes off as overwritten and melodramatic (``My mother's swollen alcoholic belly pressing against an organ that eventually turned her yellow and filled her tissues with the excrement of a body gone mad was my ticket out'') or simply written in code. Morbid, disturbing, and often obscure--but convincingly rendered for those with a passion for noir.

Pub Date: Oct. 15th, 1997
ISBN: 0-86538-088-0
Page count: 147pp
Publisher: Ontario Review
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 1997


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