FACES by Leigh Kennedy


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From the author of the 1986 novel, The Journal of Nicholas the American, here are ten stories that strive hard but too often play flat. In ""The Silent Cradle,"" a husband and wife raise a ""ghost"" child (they never see him but know he's been there), though they do it strictly on the surface, unencumbered by any psychological growth of their own; and a nostalgic look-back at the 60's (""Max Haunting"") fares little better, marred by a determined heavy-handedness (""He thought about the night he'd explained existential philosophy to her""). In paired stories, a debased woman drowns her three-year-old daughter (""River Baby""), and a childless man grieves when he discovers the body (""The Fisherman""--perhaps the volume's best). ""Belling Martha"" is a Ray Bradbury-esque glimpse into the future, where over-population has resulted in social breakdown and cannibalism; in ""The Window Jesus,"" a man fabricates a vision for his wife; and in ""Petit Mal,"" a boy's drug-altered mind is rather effectively rendered. Elsewhere, Kennedy sprawls into banality. In ""Tuning,"" a despondent young musician-composer stabs himself in the stomach (""The death agonies of modern civilization gnawed at his healing incision""). In ""Greek"" (speaking in tongues, an uneducated man is found to be reciting The Iliad), a sociology professor wonders, ""Could it really be that modern minds were deteriorating?"" And in the title story, a researcher in primate studies falls in love with his smartest orangutan (named Annie, she's written a publishable children's story and is doing a report on Sons and Lovers). After he initiates sex with her, everything changes: Annie wants to go back to the jungle; the researcher has terrible guilt; and his wife has just about had enough (""Are you in love with another woman?"" she asks. ""It was never like this, even when you were working on your thesis""). One or two moments, but often egregious.

Pub Date: Aug. 19th, 1987
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly--dist. by Little, Brown