TRANSGRESSIONS: The Iowa Anthology of Innovative Fiction by Lee; Mary Hussmann & David Hamilton -- Eds Montgomery

TRANSGRESSIONS: The Iowa Anthology of Innovative Fiction

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KIRKUS REVIEW

This anthology of recent experimental fiction selected by past and present editors of the Iowa Review is a mixed bag containing many a chuckle, an occasional yawn, and perhaps half a dozen true revelations. Experimental prose, William Gass reminds us in a helpful and entertaining foreword, is often motivated by a ""profound desire to be anywhere else, anywhere that hasn't Aunt Em, anywhere not over that sentimental rainbow."" This desire makes itself strongly felt in a number of these ventures, whether through the tongue-in-cheek humor of Ronald Sukenick's erotica -- whose every obscene act is easily conveyed even though half the story's words have been omitted; the wry fantasy of Laura Gerrity's story of a woman who can transform her lovers into circus animals; or the joyful and sly celebration of leisure time that informs John Barth's day in the life of a vacationing married couple. Sometimes, it's the characters themselves who long for escape -- most notably the silent, bespectacled boy who must bear his athlete father's vain attempts at playing paterfamilias in a monologue by David Foster Wallace. Elsewhere, the literary intent appears less escapist than explosive -- whether the tinder is words (Raymond Federman and George Chambers's surreal fable hidden within the prosaic conversation of a pair of bums) or assumptions of human decency (Cris Mazza's account of a woman's repeated rape by two colleagues). A few entries fall flat -- notably Kathy Acker's bewildering account of the origin of prostitution and the end of the world, Susan Daitch's epistolary tale of a woman who believes, inexplicably, that a ghost inhabits her house, and Ben Marcus's murky evocation of a world in which sun and grass are the enemy of mankind. Nevertheless, the cumulative effect of the collection is invigorating and should bring recognition to some lesser-known writers whose originality deserves applause.

Pub Date: Oct. 31st, 1994
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Univ. of Iowa