SQUANDERING THE BLUE: Stories by Kate Braverman
Kirkus Star


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Twelve stories of hallucinatory intensity by the author of the novels Lithium for Medea (1979) and Palm Latitudes (1988). Is there anything left to say about alcoholism and addiction? In a bravura performance, Braverman writes of women who drink, drag, and finally turn to A.A.--and she makes their stories grippingly fresh and insistent. Language itself, which tempts and mocks her characters, also becomes the one permitted intoxication. A vein, visible again after collapsing from years of drug abuse, says, ""I am Lazarus. Kiss me with metal."" Skies are ""etched with the blue of radium or narcotics. . .luminescent with ancient fever."" One story bleeds into the next as Braverman repeatedly circles over the same ground: women who write poetry and turn 40, who have young daughters or wish they did. They live in chicken-wire shacks in Hawaii and homes in Beverly Hills amid a lush sensuality of color (""The leaves looked like moist tropical stars. . .a sexual green, assaulting the boundaries""); they love terrifying addicted men; they die of breast cancer. Images are gorgeous and deadly: some reappear in story after story (vodka labels ""enticing as a postcard from Kauai. Or a medieval script, an illumination imposed upon the pagan""); this risky repetition succeeds in heightening the sense of myth and inexorable obsession. Braverman falters only toward the end: the last four stories expand the scope of the collection, but the suffering and stylistic exuberance begin to seem forced. Incantatory prose, penetrating observation of addiction and modern malaise: frightening and unforgettable.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1990
Publisher: Ballantine