TELL ME EVERYTHING by Joyce Hinnefeld

TELL ME EVERYTHING

and Other Stories
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KIRKUS REVIEW

Hinnefeld’s first collection, winner of Bread Loaf’s Bakeless Literary Publication Prize for this year, shows a talent that at its best is quite, quite estimable indeed, though elsewhere offering up familiar exercises. For openers, the volume tends toward theme-and-topic stories, as in “Jump Start” (psychologically thin and strained, a piece about grief and abortion), “Speaking in Tongues” (tormented by her new feelings of lust, a rural Indiana girl retreats into piety), or “A Thief in the Night” (once-golden dreams of opportunity have gone hollow for blacks and whites alike in desolate Michigan City, Indiana). Amusingly titled, “The Slow and Painful Death of the American Family” continues in the same vein, making shortcuts in character for the support of a plottiness in service of themes—here,AIDS, heroin, and homelessness. Suddenly, though, in her title story, Hinnefeld breaks all schoolroom shackles and lets her fiction soar, finding a way for theme and method to join gorgeously. In “Tell Me Everything,” she composes a veritable symphony of memory, image, and experience that takes on whole fields of “themes”— industrial abandonment, dead cities, adolescence, lust, love, loss, history, family—that never once wag the dog that gives them life. Curiously, though, this single occasion of real independent brilliance is the book’s only true gold; while she never loses her Katherine Anne Mansfield quality of a treasurable-enough sensitivity—to the isolation of old age, say (“What Alma Knows”), or sorrow in marriage (“Fallow”)—Hinnefeld is just as prone to let theme come first again and story to serve it, as in the ecology-study (empty, again, of credible character) “Echo Guilt,” although the novel-excerpt at end, “Stories About Miranda,” does let psychology (in this case perverse) reign again, with its attendant fictional pleasures. Schoolroom stories, however skilled, provide a setting for the one masterwork among them.

Pub Date: Aug. 7th, 1998
ISBN: 0-87451-875-X
Page count: 152pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 1998