SEXTET IN A MINOR by Norma Klein


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Since Klein's novels usually seem inflated--much ado about almost nothing--the short forms suit her better; and here, with customary stereo fidelity, she effectively captures middle-class, middle-aged Manhattan types as they're pionioned in mid-yearn, mid-misery, mid-yech. In the title novella, pebbled with satiric announcements of peak moments in peakless lives (""STANLEY IS IN A BAD MOOD""; ""BAGELS AND LOX ON EL AL""), boorish Stanley, wife Linda (""Screw views,"" she says of the snow-capped Alps), and their bored teen-age son descend on an Italian pension--where they and other guests (newlyweds, a secret homosexual) will achieve major uneasiness. In other stories the divorced nurse wounds, flounder into relationships: two dump-ees share a weekend of self-disgust and mutual comfort; another pair, losers in marriage, wearily take on an affair which just might last a few months; even dead ex-wives manage to imprint their rage--through living offspring. (""There were ambulances and everything,"" reports a seven-year-old boy, pointing out the window from which Mommy leaped, ""as though he were reciting the most interesting thing that happened on his summer vacation."") And along with divorce, suicide and adultery are the other constants--thanks in part to opportunistic husbands or amoral babysitters--though there are also a couple of amusing tales when nice guys (temporarily at least) come in first: at the wedding of an ex (held in a chapel where the stained glass windows double as buffet tables), a new true love survives; and a timid, perennial victim is given delightful notoriety by a hip, plainly cuckoo artist. With Klein's ear for the endemic speech, and a sharp sense of lives spinning on verbal spins and tumbles: a modestly entertaining collection about grungy people buffing their lives to a glossy flash.

Pub Date: March 7th, 1983
Publisher: St. Martin's