CHARLESTON & OTHER STORIES by JosÉ Donoso
Kirkus Star

CHARLESTON & OTHER STORIES

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KIRKUS REVIEW

These nine, fine stories by the Chilean novelist share all the eeriness but little of the satiric edge of his just-published novella trio, Sacred Families. Eeriest are Donoso's staring, fierce-eyed children: backward ""Ana Maria,"" ignored by her unloving, oversexed parents, devoted to the old married man who watches and feeds her through the fence; hypnotic Jaime, whose singing can make his ""Summertime"" pal Raulito laugh or cry while their idle mothers fight for the same man; and ""The GÃœero,"" the only rich white boy in a poor Mexican village, unable to resist the temptation to exploit his power over his classmates. Donoso's adults are childlike too--in their oddly sympathetic obsessions. In ""The Walk,"" a woman who has dedicated her ordered life to the care and feeding of her three lawyer brothers shifts loyalties--to a stray, lame dog that takes her for longer and more distant strolls away from conformity. ""Santelices"" is a lonely, rooming-housed office worker whose passion for illustrated beasts of prey (the bloodthirstier the better) moves from hobby to fetish to suicidal madness. And--in by far the most singular piece--the sheer love of sleep and the determination to discover that other life behind ""The Closed Door"" of dreams transforms a man-most-likely-to-succeed into a beggar, thief, and pariah. As these willful children of all ages break away from society's patterns (the title story's shallow protagonist almost breaks but slips back), Donose seems to be siding with them, almost egging them on, no matter how deranged or dangerous or self-destructive their departures may be. (The politically oriented will read much here as ""anti-bourgeois."") Thus, not everyone's allegiances will line up neatly with Donoso's, but no one could fail to appreciate the easy expertness of the storytelling and the terse exactitudes of his admirably translated prose: ""Meanwhile his wife, without parting her lips, displayed an approving smile like a person who holds up a defensive weapon.

Pub Date: June 29th, 1977
Publisher: Godine