THE SPERM DONOR'S DAUGHTER

AND OTHER TALES OF MODERN FAMILY

A novella and five stories by a stylist who takes to a fare- thee-well Virginia Woolf's idea that women deserve their own sort of sentence and subject matter—those that don't march to a male rhythm—and their own moody, subliminal subject matter. In the surreal expressionism of Trueblood's debut collection, sense does indeed go up into vapor, sometimes. But this is the kind of crosswired writing that at the very least leads to somewhere new and never rolls dully down the groove of good sensible storytelling in little sermonizing sentences. The standout is the 100-page title piece, whose notably clearer style puts to shame the remaining lesser stories, which morph awkwardly like a batch of polliwogs into would-be frog princes. Jessie, 20 and pregnant, finds that her lesbian mother has been fibbing to her for all of her life: Her father didn't die in battle before Jessie was born. Instead, she's the product of artificial insemination by a med student sperm-donor who received the grand sum of 40 dollars for his bodily fluid. Jessie quickly spots her father in a class yearbook, tracks him down, breaks into his summer cabin, and lives there for a week on her own. Then she phones him, without revealing her identity, and gets an appointment to have her pregnancy checked over. Meanwhile, Nigel, the 40-year-old who got Jessie with child and then split, comes to visit her mom at the motel she manages and tries to straighten things out—in a scene that erupts with wisdom about who is responsible for what in a pregnancy. The climax is the snappish dialogue visited by Jessie upon her surprised biological father. As for the shorter stories, they show family life geysering in images summoned from the collective unconscious. Synaesthetic prose, all roses crushed with daisies, and not for the fainthearted.

Pub Date: April 1, 1998

ISBN: 1-57962-006-X

Page Count: 168

Publisher: Permanent Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1998

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The book is pure fun, although slender. Another volume of Maud’s misdeeds would be most welcome.

AN ELDERLY LADY IS UP TO NO GOOD

Five connected stories about a murderous old Swedish lady.

Maud has a good thing going. At age 88, she’s lived in a large apartment rent-free for 70 years because of a clause in an old contract. Never married, she loves to travel alone and to be alone. In the first story, "An Elderly Lady Has Accommodation Problems," a rare event happens: Her doorbell rings. Jasmin Schimmerhof, a 40-year-old avant-garde artist who lives in the building, stops by to say hello. The daughter of celebrities, her past includes drugs, multiple divorces, and tragedy. Her current art project strives to “unmask the domineering tactics of the patriarchy,” meaning that her small apartment is filled with phalluses—some even hanging from the ceiling. She is delightfully overbearing as she constantly tries to weasel her way into Maud’s good graces. But Maud isn’t stupid or senile, and she knows Jasmin is up to something. Once Maud figures out what it is, her solution is drastic, funny, and final. Maud is a seasoned world traveler who once, at age 18, had been engaged to Lt. Gustaf Adelsiöö. He’d emphatically broken off their engagement on learning her family wasn’t rich. Now, in “An Elderly Lady on Her Travels,” she reads in the newspaper that he is a wealthy 90-year-old widower about to marry the 55-year-old Zazza, whom ex-teacher Maud knows as her long-ago student, a schemer and a failed soft-core porn actress. When Maud arranges to get near her at a spa and then overhears Zazza’s plans to take control of Gustaf’s estate, Maud devises an emphatic countermeasure. And then in “An Elderly Lady Seeks Peace at Christmastime,” she deals with “The Problem” in the apartment above her. Maud’s murders always have plausible motives, and she is a sympathetic character as long as one keeps a safe distance. Each story takes its sweet time to develop and concludes with a juicy dose of senior justice.

The book is pure fun, although slender. Another volume of Maud’s misdeeds would be most welcome.

Pub Date: Nov. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-64129-011-1

Page Count: 184

Publisher: Soho

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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BEYOND THE GREAT SNOW MOUNTAINS

Superb stylist L’Amour returns (End of the Drive, 1997, etc.), albeit posthumously, with ten stories never seen before in book form—and narrated in his usual hard-edged, close-cropped sentences, jutting up from under fierce blue skies. This is the first of four collections of L’Amour material expected from Bantam, edited by his daughter Angelique, featuring an eclectic mix of early historicals and adventure stories set in China, on the high seas, and in the boxing ring, all drawing from the author’s exploits as a carnival barker and from his mysterious and sundry travels. During this period, L’Amour was trying to break away from being a writer only of westerns. Also included is something of an update on Angelique’s progress with her father’s biography: i.e., a stunningly varied list of her father’s acquaintances from around the world whom she’d like to contact for her research. Meanwhile, in the title story here, a missionary’s daughter who crashes in northern Asia during the early years of the Sino-Japanese War is taken captive by a nomadic leader and kept as his wife for 15 years, until his death. When a plane lands, she must choose between taking her teenaged son back to civilization or leaving him alone with the nomads. In “By the Waters of San Tadeo,” set on the southern coast of Chile, Julie Marrat, whose father has just perished, is trapped in San Esteban, a gold field surrounded by impassable mountains, with only one inlet available for anyone’s escape. “Meeting at Falmouth,” a historical, takes place in January 1794 during a dreadful Atlantic storm: “Volleys of rain rattled along the cobblestones like a scattering of broken teeth.” In this a notorious American, unnamed until the last paragraph, helps Talleyrand flee to America. A master storyteller only whets the appetite for his next three volumes.

Pub Date: May 11, 1999

ISBN: 0-553-10963-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Bantam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1999

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