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Jordan, an Irishman published here for the first time, goes mostly for the single, glassy, evocative notes that young short-story writers are often drawn to: a laborer who commits suicide in a public bathhouse; a suburban housewife's stifling frustrations and her stolen moment--misjudged; a woman returning home to her lover after a nervous breakdown. Everything is briefly, carefully rendered, as though the spell might break with any rougher handling--and the result is most often poise edging into preciousness. But two stories, longer ones, press successfully at Jordan's obviously self-imposed limits. Both recollect adolescence, yet the lyricism of each is double-charactered and helped by conflict. The title story reconstructs the summer of a teenage boy in the small country town where his father, a dance-band musician, has gotten work. Both father and son (who also plays sex) are lost outside of life, but the directions in or out are crucial: ""His father got up at half-past three and played the opening bars of 'Embraceable You' and instead of filling in while his father played, he played while his father filled in. And they both played, rapidly, in a kind of mutual anger. . . ."" In the other standout, ""A Love,"" a young man meets and sleeps with, one last time, the older woman who first took his virginity; but she's dying of cancer, and Jordan fully captures how the repetition of ardor is made into a kind of ghastly favor or obligation--it's a strong, affecting piece of fiction. So: a mixed bag--with powerful glints inside.

Pub Date: March 10th, 1980
Publisher: Braziller