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DUCK ALLEY by Jim DeFilippi


by Jim DeFilippi

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 1-57962-024-8
Publisher: Permanent Press

A second from DeFilippi has parallels with his considerably stronger Blood Sugar (1992), but too much in plot flies off with too little in substantive atmosphere or theme to act as ballast. Narrator Jay Tasti opens up with a ramble through plentifully familiar boyhood memories of growing up on Duck Alley, Long Island. Recalling the happy summertime of his youth in the “50s, Tasti summons Coke bottles, friendly drunks, fussy moms, baseball games on the radio and harmless pranks. Back then, see, Tasti was real tight with Albert Niklozak, and, man, did they do some crazy stuff. Well. Then comes the draft. Albert gets sent to Nam (and strangely never speaks of it), while Tasti stays comfy with a stateside role. Tasti muffles his mixed feelings, becomes a high-school teacher, and marries. Albert becomes a small-time hood dealing in fenced goods and prostitutes. As for his life in education, Tasti recalls, oh, if there only hadn’t been Arlynn Svenson . . . . Arlynn, the cartoonishly drawn high-school sex siren with a troubled mind, finds teacher Tasti on the beach during a field trip, bares her breasts to him, and actually says “jiggle, jiggle.” Though Tasti takes a hundred pages to not touch her breasts, Arlynn, while literally flopping around in the hall and driving everyone nuts, claims Tasti got her pregnant. Blow her off? Advise therapy? Nah, do the sensible thing, and get Albert to silence her. It seems Albert does what he’s asked, gets caught, sent to jail, then killed in a knife fight. Only after all that does Tasti discover that Albert never murdered the girl—but held his tongue for the honor of friendship, which Tasti grieves to have forgotten. The depth of Tasti’s spiritual agony is doubtless meant to be profound, but the story just doesn—t make it real, with the result that the profound and the inane are at loggerheads.