THE SPECTACLE OF THE BODY by Noy Holland

THE SPECTACLE OF THE BODY

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Holland (Writing/Univ. of Florida) uses a fluttery and potent style in this debut collection of short stories, but she often indulges in excesses of imagery and language. Most of her characters appear to be Southerners -- occasionally verging on Faulknerian caricatures -- and Holland upholds the region's tradition with tales that contain some fairly gothic behavior. In ""Absolution"" a woman who has been crowned banana queen describes her relationships with her lover (""he ain't the hitching kind"") and her mother, who ""sometimes...wants my mouth on her breast, like when I was her child."" A man shaves off all of his bedridden wife's body hair in ""Winter Bodies""; the waitress narrator of ""Delicious"" sees a customer chew all of his food, then remove it from his mouth and replace it on his plate. There's a great deal of illness and dying, as well, most of it slow and painful. A talkative man loses his ability to speak after a car accident in ""The Change in Union City."" Being hand-fed Ethiopian food triggers memories of feeding an elderly father for the narrator of ""Amharic."" The lengthy and problematic story ""Orbit,"" which shows a brother and sister caring for their sick mother to the best of their abilities after their father leaves, brings out the best and the worst in Holland's writing. It contains wonderful images -- attempting to coerce captured turtles from their shells, the siblings ""try to pry them out with kitchen knives and pliers, to bum them out with candles, mute things, toothless"" -- but in the end they pile up without connecting much, and it becomes difficult to locate the narrative within all the symbolism. An intriguing new voice, at the moment a little too enamored of showy cadenzas and neglectful of basic melody.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1994
Page count: 192pp
Publisher: Knopf