BETTER GET YOUR ANGEL ON by Jennifer Allen

BETTER GET YOUR ANGEL ON

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The odd and awkward-sounding title of this debut story collection accurately reflects the strange syntax and bizarre subject matter in many of the tales within, some of which have appeared in Gordon Lish's The Quarterly. The title piece, like most of the others, is set in southern California, where Christmas Eve Mass is celebrated poolside at a hotel by some punked-out priests while a bewildered father looks on. Equally breathless and ungrammatical in style are: ""Liberation,"" an orgasmic account of a wild car-ride with a driver wacked-out on funny mushrooms; ""1987,"" in which the female narrator shares a monster joint with a smart-talking kid while they witness his parents fight on the beach, complete with fellatio and a knife-stabbing; ""Chlorine,"" a skateboard duel that exploits the ""thrasher"" lingo of So. Cal.; and the futuristic ""Tricentennial,"" which pokes fun at such easy targets as a ""Save the Animals"" commune and the West Coast excesses of parents who have become ""wholistically fashionable."" More Californians act goofy in ""Her Name Is Wahoo,"" and in ""The Burnt,"" kids go dipping in a neighbor's pool after the house has burned to the ground in a canyon brush fire. Three of the deliberately difficult stories brought together here border on the nonsensical: a short memorial speech to a Hawaiian sea captain (""Flag of Hawaii""); an inscrutable western tale of honeymooners, the cattleman they kill, and a Mysterious Indian (""Iskoman""); and a manic monologue of an older brother, addressed to his sister (""Let Me Have You""). The two best stories are the most conventional: ""The Generals"" explores the mix of heroism and prolonged boyishness in sports; and ""Dinner,"" a slighter piece, nicely captures the nightmarishly funny mealtime of a gruff father and his rambunctious brood. When trendiness is put aside for straight-forward storytelling--too seldom done here--a real talent emerges.

Pub Date: Sept. 19th, 1989
Publisher: Knopf