CHATTERING MAN by Merrill Joan Gerber

CHATTERING MAN

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KIRKUS REVIEW

 Eight stories and a novella that are slick, competent, and, at their most successful--in the novella, for instance, in which an elderly woman kvetches her way into a retirement home and happiness--full of antic, bittersweet detail. Some of these are sketches; of the rest, the title story is a deft slice-of-life about a daughter faced with a live-in lover who's a bit solicitous and a mother who sends unexplained mammograms to her; the daughter, reading Kafka, finally decides on independence. Such surrealism balloons in ``See Bonnie & Clyde Death Car,'' wherein Phil and Lynn decide to go to Las Vegas--a downbeat story that seems spliced together from half-digested notes. In ``Honest Mistakes,'' a daughter holds a series of summer jobs, the last of which becomes the vehicle whereby she traces down a man who swindled her father of the family's life savings. The novella, however, itself made up of stories, is the book's reason for being: in ``Rad, Man,'' an accident with a Hanukkah candle leads the almost 80-year-old Anna to a reconciliation not only with her VCR-generation grandsons but also with contemporary culture; in ``Leaf Lady,'' Anna mistakes a ``filthy old man who ate pizza'' in a grocery store for her long-dead husband; and ``The Blood Pressure Bunch and the Alzheimer's Gang,'' wherein Anna plays piano for seniors before sidestepping a possible romance, brings her as low as she can go. ``Starry Night,'' set at Christmas, celebrates the season and brings her via flashbacks to authentic grief, while ``The Next Meal is Lunch'' ends at the aforementioned nursing home, after an accident, with Anna happy, holding ``the clear impression she was getting younger.'' Prolific Gerber (King of the World, 1990, etc.) creates in the novella a character who rages eloquently against the coming of the night. By comparison, the stories are mere afterthoughts. Overall, a strong effort.

Pub Date: Sept. 15th, 1991
ISBN: 1-56352-011-7
Page count: 208pp
Publisher: Longstreet
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 1991




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