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Author of two earlier story collections (Things in Place, Special Offer) and one novel (Anaconda), Bumpus has produced here nine stories that are indefatigably energetic in their delivery but too often faded and secondhand in their substance. ""K"" is a fast-talking, celebrity-studded ""study"" of Jerzy Kosinski and the Sharon Tate murders, filled with fast cars, beautiful women, inscrutable faces (Kosinski's), and tough philosophical talk. Less successful if equally topical is the slapstick-surreal ""The Attack on San Clemente,"" with its by-now-tiresome portrayals of the tasteless, paranoid, and machinating Dick Nixon among his retinue of thugs and hired scriptwriters (among them Robert Coover, who gets quite knocked around when he enters the story). Bumpus can be fresher when he turns away from the famed and notorious. A wacky brilliance helps sustain ""Popinjay's African Notes,"" the story in large part of a science professor who goes to Africa and is changed (decivilized?) by the experience. In ""Fable,"" a woman grows a horn on the top of her head; amid much time/space collapsing, the story ends (and the horn falls off) in a vast and seemingly unnecessary apocalyptic vision. A long violence-paranoia-dream-vision turns out to be only the thoughts of a mild woman reading a book of her own poetry (""Heroes and Villains""); ""Plenty of Time"" takes on lesbianism in academia, but founders under a made-for-TV plot; ""Chums"" is a silly little tale of necrophilia set in a futuristic, Clockwork Orange world; and ""Shame"" (a tough-talking roommate is driven to despair by a sexist world) hints at the banality that underlies some of Bumpus' visions (""Oh shit, Marie, she's dead. She's dead, she's dead. . .""). Rambunctious, flashy stories, but--in spite of all the writerly verve and energy--alive most of the time on the surface rather than at the depth.

Pub Date: Jan. 31st, 1985
Publisher: Fiction Collective--dist. by Sun & Moon (6363 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90048)