BEND THIS HEART by Jonis Agee

BEND THIS HEART

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KIRKUS REVIEW

These 21 fictions, mostly short-shorts, are quick takes, variations on the theme of love. Like the short-shorts included in Agee's other collection, Pretend We Ye Never Met (p. 308), some are lyrical and evocative--intense finished vignettes that leave an acerbic aftertaste--while others are glib or too studied. Several are set in St. Paul, where Agee lives, and several deal with Catholics or ex-Catholics. One of the sharpest, "Someone Else to Love," is about an ex-priest with wife problems. Other notables include "I Can't Stop Loving You," about an "apprentice of love" who observes the amorous and angry goings-on in her neighborhood; "In the Blood," a sharp, intense vignette in which a man returns to a woman after a five-year absence, wanting her (despite his blood cancer) "like a dog let out of a cage," much to her revulsion; "Each Time We Meet," in which the narrator's mother in South Carolina is taken to a mental hospital; "Cupid," a satire about a poet, his student lover and cocaine ("It makes everything too possible"); and "You Belong to Me," in which a man sits in his backyard in his wife's flannel nightgown as she tosses all his things from an upstairs window. The story's eccentricity is finally resonant and touching. Less successful: "Lady of Spain" and "Home Video," two family fragments that strain for satire; "Time Only Adds to the Blame," a too-cute and oblique family drama about a dead sister; and "Side Road," tantalizing in its dreamy slide to violence but also too inaccessible. The short takes are good, each alert lo its own situation, but their insistent sardonic manner can wear thin. Overall, then, a book of sharply etched, coolly postmodernist portraits filled out with some glib satire.

Publisher: Coffee House
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