A BAD MAN IS EASY TO FIND by M.J. Verlaine

A BAD MAN IS EASY TO FIND

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Despite the awkward references in the title, this first collection of 11 interlinked stories about contemporary Manhattan have absolutely nothing in common with Flannery O'Connor. And that's just one of the major missteps in a volume that's not as bad as it first seems. The other glaring miscalculation is the authorial ""Have a nice day"" that, however ironically, ends the book. Between these two gaucheries, there are some decent tales of ""the city whose stories never end."" The title piece concerns a talented young executive from Flatbush who's torn between her aunt Sophie, who wants to set her up with a nice Jewish boy, and her lovers in Manhattan, who are ""kind,"" ""fascinating,"" and ""affable,"" but no menschen. Ruth Ann shares her dilemma with her brunch club, an improbable group of women who each become the focus of other stories. Kathleen, in ""The Nude Scene,"" is a Nebraska beauty who aspires to acting in something other than her lucrative TV commercials; Teresa, the mousy Italian-American in ""Teresa Forgives Herself,"" suffers from low self-esteem until she emulates Kathleen, whom she meets while working at her librarian's job; and Boise, the oldest of the group, we learn in ""A Date with a Hustler,"" needs a little extramarital lovemaking--at $2,000 a shot!--to revitalize her boring life with her fabulously rich husband. The other stories often pick up minor characters from previous pieces, allowing Verlaine to create a more complete cross-section of New Yorkers (the bag lady, the working-class guy from the Bronx, the German ‚migr‚ intellectual). What makes this volume worth dipping into is not only Verlaine's ability to turn a phrase, but a few genuinely poignant pieces, one about a child ostracized at his local playground (""Something Went Wrong""), and the other about a misunderstood single mother, an Irishwoman from Hell's Kitchen (""The Life of Maggie Dillinger""). ""New York"" serves as an all-purpose adjective in this wildly uneven collection that strains to cohere thematically.

Pub Date: Aug. 17th, 1989
Publisher: St. Martin's