AFOOT IN A FIELD OF MEN by Pat Ellis Taylor
Kirkus Star


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Here's a fictional debut that's inspiration personified--a wild and original collection of prose pieces that together form an autobiographical indulgence of Frederick Exley-like brilliance. Taylor disarms by frankness and a kooky self-consciousness as a writer who's done her share of struggling These 18 stories--her ""adventures in god-land""--put forth her misbegotten self as tough-talker and sap, spiritual swinger and ""shady woman."" Tale after tale attests to her ambivalence as a mother, her weaknesses as a wife and lover, and to a New Age sensibility sobered by hardscrabble reality. ""The God-Chaser"" not only defines a type, exemplified by her holy-rolling grandmother, but chronicles her own belief in art as transcendence--an insight that came in an anti-epiphany. A military brat, Taylor returned to Texas (""At the Altar"") to escape college and a ""home built on the science-of-war and patriarchy,"" and settled into eight years of babies and secretarial work. ""How to make a living doing nothing"" becomes the theme of a number of her postmarital exploits (""A Clouded Visit with Rolling Thunder"") but mostly she lives on the margin, hand. to-mouth with byways to the soul. Her Texas--the slums of Dallas, the barren farmlands of East nowhere--teems with Jesus freaks and bikers, low-riders and winos, hippies and head-bangers. Her men--the sons and brother and husbands and lovers--cherish dreams of their own: the violent revenge of her biker brother, Okie (""Call from Brotherland"" and ""Descent into Brotherland""); or the musical hopes of Morgani, her dropout guitar-playing son (""Turning Thirty. Eight"" and ""Entering the House of the Lord""). Not just stories, there are meditations and homilies here, and sheer poetic interludes as well. Rough around the edges and breaking all the rules, Taylor's much the better for it. Beyond redneck chic (on one peckerwood: ""unkind, untrue, unkempt, uninteresting""), her confessional celebration should put the schools of Raymond Carver and Bobble Ann Mason to shame. And make no mistake--without romancing poverty, this mother's a stitch.

Pub Date: Jan. 25th, 1987
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly--dist. by Little, Brown