WILD DESIRE by Karen Brennan


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 Winner of the 1990 AWP Short Fiction Award: a collection of 18 uneven stories, written in a hyper-poetic minimalist style and mostly about families where poetic sensibilities fight for survival against abuse, crassness, bourgeois ordinariness, or secular tedium. Divided into three sections (``Building a House,'' ``Wild Desire,'' ``Floating''), the book alternates short pieces--often effectively dreamlike and impressionistic--with long ramblers that could benefit from a tight edit. Most are written in short lyrical instances--all have moments of sharp grandeur as well as mannered passages. Notables include: ``Building a House,'' a Donald Barthelme-like fable (``There are people who say building a house is too strenuous an activity for a woman. I would agree. My little wrists! My delicate spinal column!''); ``Polio,'' in which the disease spreads from son to mother while the daughter watches, wistful with magical thinking (``Only prayer. Deliverance through magic''); ``Floating,'' which begins with a first great sentence (``In the morning I levitated for the first time'') that Brennan develops delicately into an apt metaphor; and ``Trouble,'' a short- short in which a young boy, beaten up, tells his mother about it and thinks about God (``how it must be with the devils now running heaven''). The longer pieces are shot through with evocative renditions of relationships gone awry (or psychic or dead), but one thing follows another with only an occasional summarizing image or extended metaphor for anchor. Some of these were published in Chicago Review and Sonora Review. The best call to mind, ironically or whimsically, a spiritual counterworld that offers consolation in the face of disappointment, while the minimalist worst offer up rhyme without reason.*justify no*

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1991
ISBN: 0-87023-751-9
Page count: 192pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 1991