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by Julie Hecht

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-679-45201-X
Publisher: Random House

 Hecht debuts with stories woven from seemingly uneventful threads of life that are made as funny, compelling, and rewarding as a reader ever could wish. The nine pieces' narrator is in her early 40s, married, childless, a sometime resident of New York City now living in East Hampton and summering in Nantucket. Such locales might suggest a white-glove elite, but this character is no such type. Money goes unmentioned, it's true (the husband is a university dean), but Hecht's invariably engaging person is far too timid, droll, and bumbling to be a mover or shaker of much of anything. In ``Perfect Vision'' (a slow start), she's certain that an optician is an ex- Nazi, while in the much finer title story her fear of driving leads her to ride the ``South Fork bus,'' an experience as richly peopled in its understated modern way as a ride down the river might once have been with Mark Twain. Hecht's heroine is a strict vegetarian (``I knew that the Swedes liked to commit suicide, and if this was their diet, maybe it was the reason'') and pursues a career in photography that most recently involves photographing ``seven doctors and their dogs,'' the most prominent doctor being the famous ``reproductive surgeon, Dr. Loquesto,'' who always yells, never opens windows (``A Lovely Day''), and performs a ``medical procedure'' on his photographer-patient (``I Couldn't See a Thing''), who's not about to reveal exactly what the surgery is, though hints may be hidden in the gorgeously intricate ``The Thrill Is Gone'' (looking for the source of ``My heart leaps up''), or in the melancholy ``Were the Ornaments Lovely?'' (meeting two strange brothers), or even in ``The World of Ideas,'' with its glance back to the promise of the last century (``But this was the new world. What kind of world was it? It was some other kind of world, and there was no escape''). Droll, intricate, hilarious, sad: a humane, serious, funny, altogether captivating voice.