MAN'S WORK by John Connelly


Email this review


Ten stories that are uniformly compelling in their accretion of homely details, though what comes of the whole in each case may be more open to question. There's a touch of Ann Beattie in ""Basques,"" about four young bank-tellers who spend an evening betting on jai alai, one of them slowly revealing hints of instability; and an inhabiting ghost of Salinger in the careful indirections of ""Sleeping Together,"" about a girl who changes things for good by admitting to her lover that she regularly steals from the till where she works. Connelly's voice in these pieces may not be unusual, but his mastery of pace and detail is impeccable; and a theme slowly emerges of hinted mental imbalance, usually in the working-class (or just above) lives of the male characters. A waitress lives with a divorced man who is both selfish and compulsive (""Ours""); in ""Agency,"" a man reveals brutal undercurrents of anger by leaving no tip for a young waitress; and ""Teamwork"" ends ominously with what appears to be the criminal abduction of a girl by the ""boyfriends"" of two of her sisters. Connelly's expertise with detail is unerring in his portrayal of the behind-the-scenes workings of a large restaurant (""Ours""); the details of an illegal bookmaking operation set lip by two friends, who are then ripped off by some black kids after a marathon basketball game (""Lock""); and in laying bare the paltry desolations of an unemployed cable-TV installer who resorts to stealing from his own wife as he secretly chases the fantasy-image of a girl he's never even met. The world these characters live in may be an unresilient, static, and depressed one, but it is limned--as in, say, the early stories of Richard Yates--with a concision and completeness that makes them hover before the eye, if less often touch the heart. Greatly skilled slices of life, alluring but illusionless.

Pub Date: March 15th, 1987
Publisher: Algonquin