NO GUARANTEES: Stories by Melissa Lentricehia


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Debut author Lentricchia incorporates lots of trendy theoretical notions in many of these ten stories, all but one of which were previously published in small quarterlies. The strongest pieces here are the most conventional--in particular ""Relatives,"" an affable tale of two regular Queens-type Italian-American guys (distant cousins) in their 30s who happen to be homosexual--a fact that proves divisive in their big families. Lentricchia further demonstrates her ability to capture the rhythms of ethnic life in ""A Love Story in One Act,"" an operatic dialogue between the mistress of an obese singer and an opera-loving cop who's interviewing her--with little success--about the death of a local music critic, who died by choking on a cannoli. A similar hyberbolic humor underlies ""Some Enchanted Evening,"" the story of a couple who met at a Broadway musical and continue throughout their married life to stage musicals--complete with sets, costumes, and recorded orchestrations--for no one but each other. Unpredictability, false promise, and impermanence-all suggested by the title of this uneven collection--are well embodied in ""It Had to Be You,"" in which a well-to-do couple taunt each other with subtle cruelties; in ""Wandalinda,"" a portrait of a drab physical therapist who feels betrayed by the promise of California life and takes up with gypsies as a palm reader; and in ""From You Know Who,"" the tale of two old spinster sisters who spend much of their time rereading love letters written to their brother who was killed 50 years earlier in the war. An anti-fable about an anthropomorphic shack, the boy who lives there, and a woman who turns brittle or soggy depending on the weather is Lentricchia at her most demanding, as is the fabulistic ""Red Horse Running Through Water,"" a bit of native American mysticism that's also a comment on storytelling itself. The metafictional and in-jokey ""Ole, Henry"" is a love letter to Henry James jazzed up with all the latest critical jargon--it also seems to be a dialogue with James idolator Cynthia Ozick. Clever fictions that often obscure more than they enlighten, but there's an unusual intelligence stirring here--one worth watching.

Pub Date: May 24th, 1990
Publisher: Morrow