DARK CONTINENT And Other Stories by Laura Kalpakian

DARK CONTINENT And Other Stories

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A second notable collection of short fiction by the novelist Kalpakian (Fair Augusto and Other Stories, Crescendo, Beggars and Choosers, These Latter Days): six sharp-edged portraits, mostly of spunky (even half-mad) women at odds with a patriarchal society. One of the best of these long pieces, ""Wine Women and Song,"" concerns Mrs. Sophie Boyajian and her tenant Rose when their men return victorious from WW II--""The war's over. . .sometimes you need more strength for the peace."" Sophie's Arum sits around the house, and Rose's Wesley tries unsuccessfully to return the changed Rose to Idaho and fundamentalism. ""A Christmas Cordial"" is about an English spinster--best known for her holiday cordial, concocted from a lady's recipe--with a cocoon of a fantasy life who ""read cookbooks the way other women read novels"" until her death in a paroxysm of hallucination. In ""The Battle of Manila,"" a woman (""Manila""), driven crazy by the loss of her husband and the death of one son in WW II, has her house declared a ""public hazard"" after several neighborhood confrontations. Her lost son's former fianc‚e then sends her boy Danny to clean up the mess, and Manila becomes attached to him, only to lose him to Vietnam. The story comes round too neatly, perhaps, but it's moving nonetheless. ""Bones of Contention"" precisely captures the very different voice of an adolescent narrator as she chronicles pitched battles between a cold, ambitious mother and a mainly unemployed stepfather--in the end, the mother, money-mad, forces her daughter to testify falsely to abuse in court. And the title story is about a solicitor who ""lived in a sort of sexual Switzerland: tidy, bold, natural""; he learns secondhand about passion in stories of the fiery Africa, a woman due to inherit some money. A couple of these pieces are too long for what they accomplish, but for the most part, Kalpakian's bruised, feisty women deserve all the room they need.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1989
Publisher: Viking