HUNGRY by Joanna Torrey


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 A feisty debut collection of six stories and a novella featuring feminist urban guerrillas, mostly stymied, who take their pleasure in ``Raisin Rage'' lipstick, etc. Torrey's women all desperately want more control over their lives and their hungers. Like athletes, they train and compete for success in Manhattan settings ranging from offices and restaurants to bedrooms and strip clubs. In ``Eyes,'' nude dancer Candy Cane works her job at the Peekaboo Lounge; unhappily, she's become the unwilling victim of her own power to snare men by catching and holding their gazes. Less exposed but just as frustrated, the nameless girlfriend in ``Parking Lot'' struggles to find meaning with a man obsessed by his aged mother. A novella, ``Me and Mine,'' desultorily follows the anticlimactic nine-to-five routine of a jaundiced legal secretary. The fun here and elsewhere is in the sardonic tone: Instead of giving up, Torrey's heroines simply get weird, shedding their clothes after hours in their bosses' well- windowed aeries or stealing the company's pens. The problem, however, is that the stories also share an atmospheric sameness, along with a lack of plot. The best piece, ``Sweat,'' succeeds by immersing the reader in the details of a fancy city-gym, nicely catching the lust and gloom that send obsessively lonesome body- builders there to labor, grunt, gape, and try to connect. Symbolically, the tale resonates because the heroine and her desires are so grounded in specifics; one can't object to the writer's fatalism here because it seems indisputably realistic. But too often Torrey's reliance on impressionistic description to launch and guide her characters softens a story's impact. And while the moods (of anonymity, fear, anger) are convincing, the characters displaying them tend toward the vague. Bright lights, bad city, okay book. (Quality Paperback Book Club alternate selection; author tour)

Pub Date: March 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-609-60121-0
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Crown
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 1997