A ROBBER IN THE HOUSE by Jessica Treat


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 In her first collection of ``short-short'' stories, many set in an unnamed provincial city on the edge of a bleak dreamscape, Treat captures moments in the lives of fearful, lovelorn characters whose isolation often seems to threaten them with mental illness. These four dozen prose poems and vignettes are oddly old- fashioned and occasionally tedious in their aversion to specificity. Sometimes they're clever. In ``Piano,'' a young woman's one-night stands always see her piano and always blandly comment: ``Do you play the piano?'' When one instead asks, ``What do you play?,'' the woman's ordinariness is instantly revealed. Sometimes a thumbnail sketch is touching. In ``Liza Jane,'' a Vietnam vet who's left his wife and moved into a motel room in a strange town--because he could feel ``nothing as he watched the tears well in her eyes'' in response to his war crimes--is broken up by the sound of a baby crying next door. More often, however, a familiar event is clouded. In ``Birthday,'' odd observations about wallpaper unproductively obscure the central fact that a little girl has no friends; and in ``Zamora'' and other stories with exotic settings, characters succumb to outright imagism or surrealism without a trace of plot. All in all, too often there's a strong feeling of reader dÇjÖ vu. With Kenneth Koch (see above), the first of a series by this small press collectively called ``Coffee to Go: short-short stories for people on the run.''

Pub Date: May 1st, 1993
ISBN: 1-56689-007-1
Page count: 144pp
Publisher: Coffee House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 1993