NEWS OF THE SPIRIT by Lee Smith

NEWS OF THE SPIRIT

Stories

KIRKUS REVIEW

 All six of the stories in Smith's third collection (Cakewalk, 1981; Me and My Baby View the Eclipse, 1990) have been previously published, so serious students of southern fiction will find much that's familiar here, though none the less enjoyable. Smith writes affectionately of the small social distinctions between working-class and middle-class southerners. Often at the center of her stories is a woman with odd notions or airs, of which she must be disabused, and her chatty narrators embrace a populace of lovable eccentrics. Smith's clearest aesthetic statement here surfaces in ``The Happy Memories Club,'' which concerns an old-age home resident's feisty refusal to render her past through rose- colored glasses--the way everyone else in her writing group does. ``The Bubba Stories'' also focuses on the creation of fiction. But in this case it's a reverse parable: A scholarship student at a fancy girl's college invents a more glamorous life for herself, yet doesn't discover her voice as a writer until she turns to what she knows best--her ordinary family. The prissy, spinsterish narrator of ``Blue Wedding'' returns to her small-town home to settle her father's estate and finds herself loosening up with some iced tea and vodka. The long novella, ``Live Bottomless,'' offers a young girl's perspective on her parents' troubled marriage. After her father leaves his skittish wife for a local artist, the narrator must live with her fundamentalist relatives. But her parents give it another chance on a month-long trip to Key West, where the filming of a Hollywood movie seems to bring just the right level of romance back into their marriage. The equally long ``News of the Spirit'' unites a long-estranged brother and sister--he a druggie and drop-out; she a bit odd herself and stalled in the unmarried state. Their wild reunion frees her from her long-held guilt concerning her troubled brother. As always, lively, salty, and inviting. (Author tour)

Pub Date: Sept. 22nd, 1997
ISBN: 0-399-14281-9
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Putnam
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 1997




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