THE INSTINCT FOR BLISS: Short Stories by Melissa Pritchard


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The Flannery O'Connor Award--winner (Spirit Seizures, 1987, etc.) collects another dozen of her stories from small literary magazines, all with a sort of creative-writing-school polish: the deep imagery, the quasi-poetic metaphors, the overwrought beginnings and endings, and the controlling single idea (i.e., the high concept). Unfortunately, most of Pritchard's ideas are more suited for TV talk shows--good women who love bad men; mothers who worry over daughters' eating habits; and that old standby, women who cheat on their husbands. The book's title, though, is pure PBS, derived from Joseph Campbell's New Age bromide: ""Follow your bliss."" And the female protagonists here do so with reckless disregard for the consequences. In ""The Order of Goodness,"" a young mother leaves her husband at home with their sick daughter while she vacations in Amish country with a teenaged neighbor boy, whom she beds in ""dumb bliss."" Another young mother and wife in ""El Ojiot Del Muerto,"" newly arrived in the Southwest, goes on a deerhunt with a local Latino, then sleeps with him afterward, obeying ""the godlike affliction of desire."" An anorexic girl spends the summer with her hippyish father (instead of her overbearing glamorous mother) and discovers bliss and desire to eat in the religious faith of his Spanish neighbors. A prison-house chef prepares a blissful dinner for a death-row inmate's last meal (""Sweet Feed""); a married couple finds bliss in nature on their Hawaiian vacation (""Closed to the Natural World""); and a North American in Nicaragua experiences pure love and charity while nurturing a retarded boy (""Uriel""). Meanwhile, the real man-haters pursue bliss by other means: ""The Good and Faithful Widow,"" embittered by her husband's death from AIDS, tries to ""ungender"" herself. And in the title piece, another bitter divorc‚e takes her anorexic punk daughter to a wool-dyeing workshop on a Navajo reservation. For Oprah fans with literary pretensions.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1995
Page count: 176pp
Publisher: Zoland