ON SHIPS AT SEA by Madelyn M. Arnold


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From the author of Bird-Eyes (1988--a novel about life in an insane asylum), more cause for dispiritment in the form of 14 short stories, the majority of which concern the traumas of lesbian relationships in a decidedly locked-in-the-closet world. The first and title tale sets the tone. In it readers get a firsthand look at the nightlife of a private-school Latin teacher named Lee, who visits discos where she must give careful consideration to which woman it's okay to ask for a dance, for fear of being decked. She strikes it lucky with Dee, a girl merchant marine who proves sweet and unabashed in bed, but who leaves Lee the next morning with only a telephone number--which proves to be fake. The difficulty of a gay courtship is the subject of ""Ashes, Ashes""; and in ""One More Time,"" Arnold manages a tough but touching portrait of the end of a long-term lesbian affair. DivorcÉes with kids who turn to women after their rotten experiences with men make several showings here, as in ""See You in the Movies"" and ""Someone to Watch Over Me."" Finally, in a few entries, like ""Wish Me Luck,"" Arnold moves back onto old turf--the institution, in this case one for alcoholics, from which an incarcerated artist named Helen writes let-me-loose letters to her brother Jack. Arnold's writing is gritty and sociologically correct, but what she doesn't try to capture is why women look for love in other women, and what they find when they do. On top of which, a little humor never hurt....

Pub Date: Feb. 13th, 1992
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: St. Martin's