A .38 SPECIAL AND A BROKEN HEART by Jonis Agee

A .38 SPECIAL AND A BROKEN HEART

KIRKUS REVIEW

 Thirty-plus ``short-shorts'' hover around several common incidents--a sister's suicide, small-town women navigating lives of depressing claustrophobia. The author of two novels (Strange Angels, 1993) and a previous collection (Bend This Heart, 1989), Agee shows she can brew up a potent moonshine that combines literary surrealism with country & western jukebox wisdom. The problem is the hangover such prose can bestow. In ``My Last Try,'' the language strains for effect: ``That day the sun shone mean and glittery as a knife in my throat. Like a Broadway musical of my life, The Phantom of the Opera gone bad, and I was expected on stage any minute, with the mask covering whatever ugliness I'd been up to.'' Yet once the author gets her engines running, the story becomes a moving portrayal of a middle- aged woman's adultery: ``I felt tired that month, going from one to the other, like a mother with two sick children or a person with two jobs.'' Meanwhile, two longer works, ``Dead Space'' and ``There Has to be a Beginning,'' show up the thinness of the smaller efforts. Indeed, few of the short-shorts work--though ``The Change Jar'' is an exception: In just two pages, it manages to produce the impression that we know a disppointed man's life, inside and out. But Agee's best work comes in glimpses from inside flawed stories-- a portion of ``Cata,'' the middle of ``The Jesus Barber Shop''- -leaving the impression that perhaps the problem is with the form itself, which turns Agee skittish. A few of these pieces (in this latest addition to the Coffee- To-Go Short-Short Story series) provide jolts of recognition, but too many end up feeling like writing exercises: as cryptic as runes, they neither rise nor converge.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1995
ISBN: 1-56689-032-2
Page count: 144pp
Publisher: Coffee House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 1995




MORE BY JONIS AGEE

FictionTHE RIVER WIFE by Jonis Agee
by Jonis Agee
FictionTHE WEIGHT OF DREAMS by Jonis Agee
by Jonis Agee

SIMILAR BOOKS SUGGESTED BY OUR CRITICS:

IndieTwisted by Nora Thompson
by Nora Thompson