SWEAT: Stories and a Novella by Lucy Jane Bledsoe

SWEAT: Stories and a Novella

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An iffy debut collection of nine stories and a novella: the chip on the author's shoulder is a tremendous distraction from her natural style and distinctive voice. An integration of sexuality and sport infuses these pieces, in which straight characters are, with few exceptions, evil bigots or mindless glamour gals. Some of the stories, as well, are just too slight: ""The Rescue"" is barely a sketch, its straight woman, Meredith, an easy target; and ""Sex Is an Ancient Practice"" lacks any irony or larger context. In the title story, a frustrated and recently dumped high-school basketball coach makes a pass at a needy young player in a darkened gym, and the sympathy appears to be with the coach; at the very least, the unsettling questions of the student's age and the coach's position of authority are glossed over. ""Under the Caba€a,"" with its not-yet-realized-lesbian heroine, suffers from a coy suggestiveness, while ""The Pass"" has the opposite problem--an overstated case. High spots do emerge, however: In ""The Night Danny Was Raped,"" a clever stylistic technique--a core sentence is built upon--is woven through a fully fleshed-out narrative with a vivid, believable protagonist. But ""The Place Before Language,"" the concluding novella--about a summer ranger on Mount Rainier who discovers an affair between fire-lookout chief Elise and Barbara, the wife of the Ranger Supervisor--reverts to a lesbian-against-the-elements subtext that's by now worn thin. In the end, the connection between athleticism and lesbianism--Bledsoe's central focus--seems a forced and tenuous stretch. Bledsoe has the tools to write for an unmodified general audience, but here her subject matter holds her back to alienating--and limiting--effect.

Pub Date: Sept. 20th, 1995
Page count: 182pp
Publisher: Seal