Fifteen ferociously imaginative and provocative new stories from the author of a previous collection (Artificial Things, not reviewed) and the highly regarded novels Sarah Canary (1991) and The Sweetheart Season (1996).
There are three different kinds of stories here: vignettes that elliptically portray women's fantasies of escaping the figurative (and sometimes literal) prisons men build for them; more fully developed tales of girls and women in and out of love with variously disappointing partners; and revisionist comedies (Fowler has been called ``an American Angela Carter''), in which the fantastic and magical-realist elements that crop up in her novels are central and crucial. The best of these latter include the title story, where temperance crusader Carry Nation returns to life, to the consternation of a henpecked DEA agent; the moving ``Lieserl,'' in which Albert Einstein learns of the birth of his illegitimate daughter, but excuses his neglect by claiming ``experience is a hindrance to the scientist''; and ``The Faithful Companion at Forty,'' a piece distinguished both by wickedly rendered contemporary psychobabble and by Tonto's exasperation over the Lone Ranger's disrespect for him (``You want to bet even Attila the Hun had a party on his fortieth?''). Fowler stumbles with murky stories about impaired father-daughter relationships (``The Elizabeth Complex,'' ``Go Back'') and in an overattenuated exploration of young moderns' sexual politics and role-playing (``The View from Venus: a case study''). But she's at her best in a heart-tugging story of a woman war-protestor's separation from the pacifist intellectual who was the love of her youth (``Letters from Home''); the fascinating ``Duplicity,'' about a woman who seeks and unfortunately finds an alternative to her unadventurous lover; and ``Game Night at the Fox and Goose,'' in which an abandoned pregnant woman's encounter with a female who promises her entry into ``another universe where the feminist force was just a little stronger'' reaches an astonishing climax.
Accomplished, risk-taking, exciting new work from one of our most interesting writers.